BANGOR –- The top-ranked Central Aroostook boys basketball team survived an early scare in Monday night’s Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinal against No. 8 Deer Isle-Stonington, but the Panthers used a second-quarter run to emerge with a 49-29 victory at the Bangor Auditorium.
Junior center Mike McClung scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead undefeated Central Aroostook, which will face No. 5 Machias in a semifinal game at 8:35 p.m. Thursday.
The Panthers used an 11-0 run in the final three minutes of the second quarter to take the lead. They displayed their versatility in that stretch, as five different players contributed offense starting with a Brendan York basket that put Central Aroostook up 17-16. The Panthers did not trail from that point and had a 10-point lead at halftime.
“We hadn’t been working the ball down low, but we got it inside and that’s how we pulled it out,” said the 6-foot-6 McClung, who had two blocks.
McClung was the only Central Aroostook player to finish the game in double digits, but five other players scored at least five points, including eight points apiece from Dan Brewer and Logan McLaughlin.
Brewer and McLaughlin played critical roles on defense, switching off to guard Mariners standout Sam Grindle in the Panthers’ box-and-1 defense. Grindle finished with a team-best 16 points, but DI-Stonington coach Glenn Billings said the defense proved bothersome.
“When they made the switches and changes it took us a possession or two to make our adjustments,” Billings said. “We were real pleased the first 10-12 minutes but [Central Aroostook’s] pressure defense wore us down a bit.”
McClung said Central Aroostook was hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2010 postseason, when the second-ranked Panthers suffered an upset in the quarterfinals.
“We were really, really excited coming into this game,” he said. “Our seniors, Caleb [Kelly] and Logan, were the ones that really pumped us up.”