BANGOR — Pressed with a threat to their undefeated status and tournament life, top-ranked Central Aroostook of Mars Hill responded with pressure of its own Thursday night — pressure of the defensive variety.
Coach Tim Brewer’s club held Machias scoreless for the first 7 minutes, 52 seconds of the fourth quarter, and the resulting 19-0 run lifted the Panthers to a 62-45 victory over the Bulldogs in their Eastern Maine Class D boys basketball semifinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
“Basically we’ve come out here this year with a burning desire to win games,” said CAHS senior guard Logan McLaughlin. “So we always come out strong when we need to, and at the start of the fourth quarter we knew we had to play tough.
“We’ve always dug deep and showed a lot of heart this season, and we did that in the fourth quarter.”
Central Aroostook (20-0) advances to Saturday’s regional final against No. 2 Jonesport-Beals, an 84-72 winner over No. 3 Washburn. Machias, the No. 5 seed, ends its season at 16-4.
Machias had rallied from a 34-25 halftime deficit with a 12-0 run good for a 37-36 lead when Phillip Morse scored on a left-handed drive with 3:55 left in the third period. The Bulldogs extended that lead to three points on two occasions, the second time when senior center Brian Getchell scored from the low post to make it a 41-38 game.
But a layup by Mike McClung and a 3-pointer by McLaughin gave Central Aroostook a 43-41 lead before Machias’ Chris Grant beat the third-quarter buzzer with a follow-up shot.
Those were the Bulldogs’ final points until just eight seconds remained in the game.
Central Aroostook’s suffocating fullcourt defense forced seven Machias turnovers in the final period and relegated the Bulldogs to 1-of-16 shooting from the field.
And the Panthers’ offense fed off its defense, with Brendan York and McClung each scoring six points in the quarter.
“Machias did make a run on us,” said CAHS senior forward Caleb Kelly, who scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed six rebounds. “But we kind of kicked it into low gear, picked ourselves up a little bit and started playing our kind of basketball.”
McClung added 14 points for the Panthers, while York, McLaughlin and Dan Brewer scored seven points each.
Brian Getchell led Machias with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds. Jacob Scoville added eight points while sophomore Dustin Getchell had seven points and seven rebounds.
“I think they wore us down in the fourth quarter, that’s the bottom line,” said Machias coach Jim Getchell. “We got down early and we had to make too many runs, and we just didn’t have one more left in us.”
Kelly worked into the lane for 15 points as Central Aroostook built its nine-point halftime lead.
That margin was forged much earlier, however, as fullcourt pressure keyed by Brewer forced eight Machias turnovers during the first quarter as the Panthers took a 15-6 advantage.
That margin grew to as much as 26-13 on a 3-pointer by Brewer with 2:52 left in the second period, but Machias rallied as Brian Getchell worked inside for three baskets and Scoville added a 3-pointer as the Bulldogs outscored Central Aroostook 10-4 before Kelly beat the buzzer with one final drive through the lane.