BANGOR — The team of the last decade in Eastern Maine Class D boys basketball is starting the new decade the same way.
Top-ranked and undefeated Central Aroostook of Mars Hill used a smothering defense and balanced offense to stun No. 2 Jonesport-Beals 49-26 in the 2011 regional final Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I really can’t believe we held them to 26 because they’re a great team,” said Central Aroostook junior forward Brendan York. “We just came with intensity, everybody came to play.”
The Eastern D title was the fourth in the last seven years for coach Tim Brewer’s program, which won state championships in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
The Panthers (21-0) will face Western Maine champion Richmond in Bangor next Saturday at 2:45 p.m. for the state crown, marking their third meeting for the gold ball in the last six years. Central Aroostook defeated the Bobcats 79-55 in 2006 and 54-53 in 2008.
Richmond edged Vinalhaven 55-52 in Saturday’s Western D final.
Jonesport-Beals finishes with an 18-2 record.
Central Aroostook never trailed against Jonesport-Beals, using a triangle-and-two defense that limited Royals’ stars Garet Beal and Matthew Alley to two points each.
The Panthers forced 23 Jonesport-Beals turnovers while limiting the Royals to 12-of-46 shooting (26 percent) from the field.
York was a key to that defensive effort, limiting Beal — who had averaged 27 points in the Royals first two postseason wins — to 1-of-6 shooting, while junior guard Dan Brewer frustrated Alley to a 1-of-10 performance.
“It was just a superior defensive effort,” said coach Brewer. “If you told me before the game they’d have 26 points I probably would have laughed. Our goal was to hold them under 55, and I thought we needed to be under 60 to have a chance to win it.
“I never would have believed we’d hold them to 26. As far as I’m concerned that’s one of the most talented Class D teams since Valley in the early 2000s.”
York also led Central Aroostook’s offense with 14 points, while senior forward Caleb Kelly and junior center Mike McClung worked inside the Jonesport-Beals defense for 12 points each, with Kelly grabbing nine rebounds and McClung contributing seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We needed to attack the basket, and that’s what we did,” said Kelly, the Panthers’ most recent 1,000-point scorer. “We had four guys attacking the basket all the time, and when you do that you’re going to get fouled and you’re going to get baskets and you’re going to put pressure on the defense. That’s what we did.”
Senior forward Zach Smith and junior center Justin Alley each scored six points for Jonesport-Beals, with Smith grabbing eight rebounds and Alley finishing with six boards.
“We didn’t get it done,” said Jonesport-Beals coach Vincent MacLean. “The triangle-and-two, it was the first time we’ve seen it this year but it didn’t make the difference. I’ve seen it a hundred times. We threw the ball around, and we didn’t set screens. We didn’t free up Matt Alley and we didn’t free up Garet Beal, and we didn’t get a lot of scoring from anybody.
“They played really well defensively and did what they had to do to win the game.”
Central Aroostook forced 15 Jonesport-Beals turnovers during the first half alone while building a 23-14 lead.
The Panthers took an 11-8 first-quarter advantage on five early points by York as well as a fast-break basket and a steal and layup by Kelly.
Central Aroostook then went on a 10-2 second-quarter run to build a 23-12 lead, with McClung working inside for a short jumper and a follow-up basket while McLaughlin fed Kelly for two jumpers and Brewer added two steals and two free throws.
A follow-up basket by Justin Alley drew Jonesport-Beals within nine points at the break, but after scoring the first basket of the third quarter, Central Aroostook held the Royals to one field goal over the next six minutes while scoring 12 unanswered points — including six by York and four by senior guard Logan McLaughlin — to put the game away.
“Honestly, I didn’t think if we played our game that we’d beat them by 23,” said McLaughlin, “but we played tough, we played our game and that’s what happens when we play like that.”