BANGOR — With thousands of basketball junkies in attendance at the Bangor Auditorium Saturday morning, Nokomis junior Chris Braley proved he’s a Division I prospect.
While Braley did score 43 points, Ellsworth was able to overcome that with a furious second-half comeback as the second-seeded Eagles prevailed for a 76-73 overtime victory over the 10th-seeded Warriors from Newport.
Coach Peter Austin’s club (19-0) faces No. 6 Gardiner in Wednesday’s semifinals while Nokomis, in its first Auditorium appearance since 2003, finishes 12-8.
The Warriors led by as many as 11 in the second half thanks to Braley’s hot hand, but the Eagles closed the gap with a 10-0 run late in the third quarter.
“I think we played defense a little better and we were just hitting our shots and playing as a team all around,” said Ellsworth senior Andrew Austin, the coach’s son, who led three Eagles in double figures with 23 points.
The teams went back and fourth in the fourth quarter, and both had chances to win in regulation, but the Warriors’ Ethan Pearl and Ellsworth’s Austin, respectively, misfired on the teams’ final possessions.
The Eagles did a better job on Braley in overtime, holding him scoreless, while Nick Richie’s conventional three-point play gave Ellsworth the lead for good.
“It’s a challenge but a good challenge to have,” Austin said of guarding Braley.
Up 76-73 with eight seconds left, Ellsworth’s Cote Card missed two free throws and Braley’s running 3-point attempt at the buzzer was just off the mark.
“I thought that thing was in,” said coach Austin, whose team was 15-for-30 from the foul line.
“Against good teams you can’t miss foul shots,” he Austin.
Braley’s 43 points were nine shy of the Class B tourney single-game mark of 52 set by Ellsworth’s Corey DeWitt in 2007.
Braley shot 18 of 31 from the floor.
“Braley’s just a tremendous player. I would say that he’s probably a Division I player, no doubt in my mind,” said coach Austin. “We had no answer for him. But the guys hung in there, they showed a lot of character.”
Card tallied 18 points while Tom Sawyer came off the bench to score 13 points for the Eagles.
Sawyer, a grandson of late Ellsworth coach Charles Katsiaficas, canned three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a lift.
“I’d have to say that was a big spark,” coach Austin said.
Spencer Hartsgrove was the other Warrior in double digits with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.