PORTLAND — Tyler McFarland and Keegan Pieri are big guys who don’t mind playing their basketball away from the basket.
But when the Camden Hills boys basketball team needed them to go back to their inside roots Friday night, the 6-foot-6 twin towers delivered with points, rebounds — and a state championship.
McFarland scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Pieri had 21 points and nine rebounds as the undefeated Windjammers withstood an inspired performance by Cape Elizabeth star Theo Bowe to edge past the Capers 68-59 in the Class B state final at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“We didn’t wear them down that much because we didn’t play that many guys,” said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart after leading his team to its sixth state championship in the last 13 years. “We got out and got our running game going a bit, but definitely Tyler and Pieri in the post and on the backboards was the difference tonight, no doubt about it.”
Senior guard Joel Gabriele added 11 points and six assists, plus two steals in the final minute that clinched the Windjammers’ 22nd victory of the winter. Senior forward Nathan Catell added eight points and junior guard Adam Carlsen had six assists as he and Gabriele penetrated inside the Cape Elizabeth zone defense to feed Pieri and McFarland near the basket.
“In the first half we didn’t do as good of a job going inside, and we knew that was going to be a strength tonight because they didn’t have the size we did,” said McFarland, who earlier in the day was named a finalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball Award. “We worked all week on getting the ball inside and finishing, and we did a lot better job of getting the ball inside in the second half and then hitting our free throws down the stretch.”
Bowe had a magical night for 17-5 Cape Elizabeth, scoring 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and a 9-of-11 effort from the free-throw line.
Early in the game he struck from outside, making five 3-pointers in the first half. Later in the game he attacked the basket, working inside for 14 second-half points.
“He lives for opportunities like this and he made the most of it, he absolutely did,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “It’s too bad we didn’t have a couple of other bodies to bang with, but unfortunately we didn’t. We kind of ran out of gas.”
Bowe also had six rebounds and five assists for the Capers, while guard Cameron Brown scored 11 points and backcourt mate Joey Doane added eight.
Camden Hills took the lead for good at 41-40 on an inside basket by McFarland with 3:18 left in the third quarter, the start of a modest six-point run that gave the Windjammers a cushion they largely maintained throughout the rest of the game.
Gabriele added a baseline jumper and McFarland then scored off a lob feed from Pieri to give Camden Hills a 45-40 lead.
That advantage was 49-44 entering the fourth quarter. While Cape Elizabeth did draw within 54-52 with 3:32 left after Bowe made two free throws, fed Brown for a 3-pointer and hit 1 of 2 from the line, McFarland answered with a three-point play from the baseline and Gabriele scored in transition to push the Camden Hills lead back to 59-52 with 2:07 left.
Cape had one more run left, with Bowe feeding Brown for a 3-pointer and then driving for a three-point play to cut the gap to 63-59 with 39.7 seconds left.
But Camden Hills then worked 20 seconds off the clock before being fouled, and the Windjammers made 5 of 6 from the line over the final 19 seconds to earn themselves the gold ball.
“We’ve been doing this for four years,” said Pieri, who along with McFarland have been varsity players at Camden Hills for four years, “and now this was our last game, so we focused on making the best of it.”
Bowe had 22 points in the first half, including his fifth 3-pointer of the opening two quarters with two seconds remaining, to give Cape Elizabeth a 34-31 lead at the break.
Bowe had his way with the Camden Hills defense, shooting 5-of-6 from long range — including one that turned into a four-point play — and then pump-faking the jump shot and driving to the basket.
It was Camden Hills that jumped out to the quick start, lobbing the ball inside to Pieri and McFarland to take an 8-0 lead on a steal and layup by Catell three minutes into the game.
But Cape Elizabeth regrouped after a timeout, with Bowe scoring nine points — including two 3-pointers, one the aforementioned four-point play when he was fouled by McFarland during a shot from the right baseline — and feeding Doane for a fast-break layup to give the Capers an 11-8 lead.
Cape then stretched its lead out to 19-12 on a fast-break layup by Brown off a Camden Hills turnover.
The Windjammers answered back with an 11-2 run of its own that featured two 3-pointers by Catell and a drive by Gabriele that gave Camden Hills a 23-21 lead midway through the second period.
Doane tied the game with a jumper from the lane, marking the first of four ties over the final four minutes of the half.
“We knew they were going to come out tough and it was going to be a close game for the first half,” said Pieri. “But we knew that with our depth and the pressure we apply that we felt we could tire them out by the end of the game and pull away a bit, and that’s what we did.”