BANGOR, Maine — Through four quarters and nearly four minutes of overtime Tuesday night, few set offensive plays had produced the desired results for either Mt. Blue of Farmington or Bangor.
But presented one final opportunity, Mt. Blue ran a play to perfection — and Eric Berry’s layup with 2.3 seconds left in the extra period lifted the Cougars to a most satisfying 41-39 Class A victory over the Rams at Red Barry Gymnasium.
“Obviously any win at Bangor is a big win,” said Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey, whose team is now 11-4 after successfully rebounding from a two-point overtime loss to Hampden Academy on Saturday in which Mt. Blue led by six with a minute left in regulation.
“Nobody in the senior class had beaten Bangor in a varsity sport in baseball, soccer, football or basketball — until this evening.”
Bangor (11-4) had forged a 39-39 tie when senior forward Ellis Throckmorton capped off an 18-point, 11-rebound night off the Rams’ bench by making two free throws with 1:27 remaining in overtime.
Mt. Blue then worked the clock down until calling time with 7.5 seconds remaining.
The Cougars’ Nick Hilton inbounded the ball to Berry in the frontcourt, and with the rest of his teammates stationed along the baseline Berry then dribbled past his defender down the lane and all the way to the basket for his first field goal since the opening period.
“Usually at the end of every quarter we try to go baseline and spread the defense out and see if I can beat my man off the dribble,” said Berry, a senior guard. “Then I look for the hand-off if anyone’s open or take it to the hole.
“It opened up for me and I was just happy to see it.”
Bangor had one last chance, with Xavier Lewis throwing a long inbounding pass to Patrick Stewart, but Stewart’s contested 17-foot jumper from the key went wide as time expired.
“We got exactly what we wanted at the end,” said Bessey. “It wasn’t anything really complicated, most teams do the same thing. We just flattened out on the baseline, and the primary thing was to get to the rim. Once (Berry) got his shoulders by the defense, I knew he was going to get a shot. It was just a question of if it was going to go and he finished it.”
Hilton finished with 15 points and six rebounds for Mt. Blue, which avenged a 56-54 loss to Bangor at Farmington on Dec. 20. Cam Sennick added nine points, six rebounds and four blocks for the Cougars.
“This is real big for getting into the right mind-set going into the playoffs,” said Berry, who had seven points and six rebounds. “This kind of win is what we’ve been looking forward to, and with all the games being so close we know we can compete with everyone.”
Throckmorton was the only double-figure scorer for Bangor, which was beset by 20 turnovers and a 6-of-12 effort from the free-throw line.
Mt. Blue similarly had difficulty sustaining its offense, hampered by 17 turnovers and a half-dozen or more missed layups.
“It was very intense, very back-and-forth the whole game,” said Berry. “The tempo was really strange. We couldn’t really get out and push, it was very much a halfcourt game but it turned out all right for us.”
Mt. Blue scored the last seven points of the first half to take a 22-18 lead, then stretched that margin to as much as 30-22 on a steal and layup by Aaron Gagnon with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Bangor used a 13-1 run early in the fourth quarter to take a 37-33 lead on a baseline jumper by Stewart with 55 seconds left in regulation. Stewart, held scoreless for the first three periods, began the run with a 15-foot jumper and added another long-range basket to go with a pair of inside hoops by Throckmorton and a John Szewczyk free throw as the Rams took their biggest lead of the night.
But Mt. Blue responded as Hilton scored on a goaltending call with 39.9 seconds left, then gained a 37-37 tie when Steven Yardley sandwiched two free throws around a Bangor timeout with 8.9 seconds remaining.
Mt. Blue took a 39-37 lead in overtime on a layup by Yardley with 2:22 left in the extra period.