BANGOR, Maine — There were tears in Matt Alley’s eyes as he embraced his grandfather on the court at the Bangor Auditorium.
The emotions were nothing new for Ordie Alley, who coached Jonesport-Beals to 13 regional basketball championships and nine state titles in 39 seasons.
On Saturday, it was his grandson who helped the Royals continue the tradition.
After coming up short in the finals last year and in a semifinal in 2010, Matt Alley and his teammates guaranteed their place in Downeast hoop lore with a 75-62 Eastern Maine Class D victory over Deer Isle-Stonington.
“I can’t even describe how good this feels,” said Matt Alley, who scored 11 points.
“It’s right in the family,” said Alley, whose father Skip also won a state title with the Royals in 1985.
Coach Gordon Faulkingham’s 18-2 Royals play Western Maine winner Forest Hills of Jackman (18-3) in Saturday’s state title game at the Augusta Civic Center.
Top-seeded Jonesport-Beals combined steady defense and efficient, balanced offense to beat No. 6 Deer Isle-Stonington (14-8) for the third time this season.
The Royals, who had been denied in the tournament each of the last two years, weren’t to be denied.
“All we did was work in the offseason,” said senior Justin Alley, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“It wasn’t just last year (against Central Aroostook), it was sophomore year, too; we fell to Schenck. It feels good to get up on top.”
The Mariners, though undersized, hustled and fought to contain the Royals. Jonesport-Beals’ height and chemistry meant numerous close-range shots and a 33-23 rebounding advantage.
The Royals shot 62 percent (29-for-47) from the field, including 17-for-26 in the first half, to build a 39-25 lead.
Junior Garet Beal made six of seven shots and went 6-for-6 from the foul line en route to 20 points. He also snatched seven rebounds, dished our four assists, blocked four shots and made a steal.
“Holy cow, that’s ridiculous,” Beal said. “That is a great feeling. Right before the game, when I saw the Washburn girls (celebrating), you could just feel it.”
Sophomore Cole Beal was among the catalysts for the Royals with 14 points, three assists and three steals. Vinal Crowley contributed seven points and four rebounds, while Thomas Beal posted four points and three rebounds and Leon Smith two points and four rebounds.
Faulkingham, in his first season, was a member of Ordie Alley’s Jonesport-Beals’ state championship teams from 1971-74.
“That (playing) was easy. This is draining,” said Faulkingham, who was pleased for his players.
“Matt (Alley) and Justin (Alley) and my other senior, Nick Robinson, I had them the first organized game they played in peewees and I can see them coming in the door now. I didn’t want it to end for them. They didn’t, either.”
Faulkingham praised Deer Isle-Stonington for its play, especially after absorbing two 17-point, regular-season losses to the Royals.
“They’re scrappy, they don’t give up. They play 32 minutes,” Faulkingham said.
The Mariners hit three 3-pointers early to grab the lead, but the extra intensity generated by the baskets might have affected their ability to adhere to the game plan.
“When we started coming down and taking those quick shots, they got right in transition,” said DI-S coach Glenn Billings.
“They offer a lot of matchup problems but our kids didn’t quit and they continued to work hard and we kept chipping away,” he added.
Junior Sam Grindle propelled the Mariners with a game-high 26 points. Classmates Connor Morey (13 points) and Hayden Ciomei (10 points) also played well.
Jonesport-Beals settled down defensively late in the first period and took the upper hand. The Royals scored the last six points of the first quarter, then outscored the Mariners 9-2 to open the second period.
Matt Alley started the surge with a free throw, then Cole Beal made the first of three steal-layup sequences in the half. Grindle slashed to the basket for Deer Isle-Stonington’s first points in more than three minutes.
Garet Beal then sandwiched two foul shots and a baseline floater around another Cole Beal steal and layup to give the Royals a 28-15 advantage with 5:42 left in the half.
The Mariners, who trailed by as many as 18 points, twice trimmed the deficit to nine, the last time at 51-42 late in the third quarter. The Royals went on a 10-2 run to restore the lead to 17 and gain control for good.
“These guys have improved so much since early season,” Justin Alley said of Deer Isle-Stonington. “They’ve grown throughout the tournament.”
Ahead for the Royals is the chance to play for a gold basketball.
“It means a lot,” Faulkingham said. “We’ve had a lot of teams come up here that didn’t win, so you have to bring your ‘A’ game and they were ready.”
On Saturday, Matt Alley will think back to all the Royals who came before him.
“I grew up in the gym watching those guys play. I just idolized those guys,” he said.
Soon, other youngsters may say the same about him and this year’s Jonesport-Beals ballclub.