BANGOR, Maine — Bill Livezey admitted that he and his Katahdin boys basketball teammates had been struggling with foul shots down the homestretch of the regular season.
The Cougars had no such problems from the charity stripe Monday as Livezey connected on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds remaining to give the Stacyville school a dramatic 49-48 Class D quarterfinal win over the Hodgdon Hawks at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Cougars advanced to a 3:35 p.m. semifinal against No. 1 Jonesport-Beals, which turned to defense to oust the scrappy and talented No. 8 Easton Bears in the second game 57-42.
In the first game, both teams and basketball pundits expected a barnburner as the Cougars (15-5) and Hawks (14-6) split their regular-season meetings, and it certainly lived up to that billing.
“They’re a really good team, they’re athletic,” said Livezey, who poured in 22 points to lead the Cougars, including 17 in the second half.
“We played smart tonight and managed to get the win,” added Livezey.
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter, with Livezey giving the Cougars that cushion with a pair of free throws with 3:43 to play.
The Hawks didn’t give up, as freshman Chris Hudson was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 2:37 left and converted it into a four-point play.
The teams would trade turnovers, and with 18 seconds left, Livezey was fouled about 10 feet from the hoop. He sunk the front end of the 1-and-1 to give his team a one-point edge.
“We’ve struggled with [free throws] earlier this season, but tonight we all showed up and showed what we can do on the foul line,” Livezey said.
Hodgdon had one last chance, but Josh Hudson’s pull-up from the right baseline with five seconds left failed to connect and the Cougars cleared the rebound.
Katahdin changed looks defensively in the final seconds, switching from a 2-3 zone to straight-up man, and big man Jesse McNally denied Hudson a clean look at the hoop.
“All of us played great defense those last 13 seconds and that’s all that mattered,” Livezey said.
Hodgdon led by as many as eight in the second quarter, but the Cougars clawed back thanks to 10 points from Wyatt Morse during a 12-3 run.
Morse finished with 19 points for Katahdin while Chris Hudson had 24 for the Hawks.
In the second game, the top-seeded Jonesport-Beals High School Royals, who had scored at least 72 points in 13 of their 17 regular-season games, turned in a strong defensive effort.
The Royals limited the Bears to just two third-quarter points on 1-for-12 shooting from the floor to expand their lead to 38-27 en route to their hard-fought victory.
The Royals led by just two at the half but outscored Easton 11-2 in the third quarter thanks to their stifling man-to-man defense, their shot-blocking presence and six points from reserve junior guard Tom Beal.
“We’ve really worked hard on our man-to-man and it showed tonight,” said Beal, whose six points came on three open jumpers from around the foul line.
“That has been my role throughout the year,” said Beal. “When they get double-teamed underneath, I go to the foul line and they hit me there because they know I can hit it.”
“Tom’s an underestimated player. He’s a very good shooter and when he’s left open, he’ll knock down shots on a regular basis,” said senior guard Matt Alley.
“We played real well in the first half but we struggled handling the ball and shooting in the third quarter,” said Easton senior forward Jonah Bacon. “They’re a great team.”
Easton cut the lead to 42-33 in the fourth quarter on Reid Clark’s traditional three-point play but consecutive 3-pointers from the right side by Vinal Crowley cemented the win.
Crowley finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots for the 16-2 winners.
“I’ve been after Vinal to shoot all year and he started shooting in practice last week,” said JB coach Gordon Faulkingham. “He’s a very good shooter.”
“They left me open and, tonight, I was a good shooter,” said Crowley.
Matt Alley had 10 points and eight rebounds and Garet Beal, Justin Alley and Leon Smith contributed eight points apiece. Justin Alley had seven rebounds and four assists and Garet Beal had five rebounds.
Clark had a game-high 15 points for Easton, which finished at 15-5. He also had six rebounds. Jared Hafford contributed 11 points and three assists and Bacon chipped in with eight points and nine rebounds.