When Christian McCue fouled out with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball final, more than few fans — even those who supported McCue and the top-ranked Hampden Academy Broncos — were unsure if they would hold on to bring the program its first regional title since 2006.
That they did is a testament to the depth of talent on coach Russ Bartlett’s roster. That they had a chance stemmed in large part from McCue’s leadership both throughout the regular season and during tournament time.
For his efforts in leading Hampden to three straight postseason wins at the Augusta Civic Center, McCue has been named the Class A recipient of the William C. Warner Most Valuable Player Award.
Joining the 6-foot-2 senior guard as recipients of the Warner Award are Jake Palmer of Gardiner in Class B, senior guard D.J. Johnson of Lee Academy and freshman forward Kyle Bouchard of Houlton in Class C, and junior forward Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals in Class D.
The Warner Award, established in 1994 in memory of a former Bangor Daily News sports editor and reporter, and BDN Eastern Maine all-tournament teams were selected by a vote of media, tournament personnel and representatives of the Maine Principals’ Association.
McCue, one of the more accurate 3-point shooters in Eastern Maine, used the threat of the long-range shot to facilitate drives to the basket and trips to the free-throw line during the regional tournament.
McCue led the Broncos in scoring both in the final against Mt. Blue of Farmington and in Hampden’s quarterfinal victory over Erskine Academy of South China while becoming the first Hampden player to win the Warner Award since Jordan Cook — now an assistant coach for the Broncos — won in both 2005 and 2006.
Senior center Fred Knight was a focal point of a Hampden defense that allowed just 39.7 points per game during the tournament. He also displayed a soft shooting touch for the Broncos, highlighted by a 16-point, seven-rebound semifinal win over defending state champion Bangor. Knight was named winner of the Al Halliday Award symbolic of the Eastern A tournament’s outstanding player-sportsman.
Cam Sennick was the leader of a senior-laden Mt. Blue team that reached the Eastern Maine championship game for the first time in 15 years. The 6-6 center scored an Eastern A tournament-best 29 points in the Cougars’ quarterfinal victory over Brunswick.
Eric Berry was the perimeter complement to Sennick for coach Jim Bessey’s Cougars, and sparked Mt. Blue’s second-half comeback against Hampden in the regional final.
Quin Leary, like McCue and Berry an honorable mention all-tournament choice last winter, helped seventh-seeded Edward Little of Auburn earn a quarterfinal upset of No. 2 Lewiston with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and also helped EL stay close with Mt. Blue until the final seconds of its 52-49 semifinal defeat.
Palmer was the offensive catalyst for Gardiner, which won the first EM boys basketball championship in school history. The senior guard scored 33 points in a semifinal upset of No. 2 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, shooting 11 for 11 from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter.
Palmer then scored 23 points in the regional final, including 10 in the first quarter to help get coach Jason Cassidy’s club off to a fast start against top-ranked and previously unbeaten Mount Desert Island.
MDI reached that final thanks in great part to senior forward Jayson Burke, who was a consistent source of offense and rebounding during the tournament, including 18 points during a semifinal win over Presque Isle and 15 points and 15 rebounds in the final.
Gardiner’s Aaron Toman rebounded from a two-point semifinal performance with a big game against MDI in the finals, displaying his midrange accuracy while scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. An honorable mention all-tournament choice a year ago, the senior center also scored 14 points during an overtime victory over Nokomis of Newport in the quarterfinals.
Junior center Adam Gray worked in tandem with Burke to give MDI strong inside play throughout the tournament, and his 17-point performance against Gardiner in the final helping the Trojans stay within striking range after the Tigers took an early lead.
Junior center John Murray, who missed 10 regular-season games with a knee injury, showed himself in fine form during tournament play. After earning honorable mention status a year ago, the Medomak Valley center debuted this year with 19 points and 10 rebounds during a quarterfinal victory over Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston.
Johnson was the veteran presence that sparked Lee Academy to its second straight EM championship, while Bouchard defied his youth to lead Houlton to its first regional final since 2004.
Johnson became the second straight Warner Award winner from Lee, joining 2011 recipient A.J. Harris. The senior guard scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds during a double-overtime semifinal survival of Penquis of Milo in the semifinals, then scored 12 points in the final.
Bouchard not only showed considerable talent but great composure in leading the youthful Shiretowners to the title game. He scored 20 points in a semifinal win over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, but made his biggest play in the final seconds when he drew a double-team but found open teammate Nick Guiod for the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. He followed that with another 20-point performance against Lee.
Boubacar Diallo emerged as an explosive scorer for Lee, with 20 points in the quarterfinals and 25 points — 21 in the second half — as the Pandas overcame Houlton in the championship game. The sophomore had a knack for working his way through the lane for high-percentage shots, and when his initial attempt did go in he was an effective offensive rebounder.
Trevor Lyford and Isaiah Bess, as they did throughout the regular season in leading Penquis of Milo to a 16-2 record, showed the Bangor Auditorium crowds why they are considered one of the better sophomore tandems in Eastern Maine, if not beyond.
Lyford scored 30 points during a quarterfinal victory over Fort Kent, then had 17 points in the semifinals when the Patriots took Lee Academy to the limit in the semifinals. Bess had 24 points, eight rebounds and five steals in the semis after a 16-point quarterfinal performance.
Senior guard Chase Vicaire showed off his offensive skills from the moment he stepped on the Bangor Auditorium floor, scoring 31 points as Mattanawcook Academy upended No. 3 Calais in the quarterfinals. He followed that with 13 points in the Lynx’ semifinal loss to Houlton.
Beal and his Jonesport-Beals teammates — motivated by having come so close to regional glory each of the past two seasons only to fall short — were determined not to let this third opportunity elude them.
Beal, an all-tournament choice last year and honorable mention as a freshman, led the Royals to their first EM crown since 1999 with a display of versatility that included scoring, rebounding and ballhandling. The junior forward had 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a semifinal win over Katahdin of Stacyville, and also scored 20 points against Deer Isle-Stonington in the final in becoming the first Warner Award winner from Jonesport-Beals since Josh Knowlton in 1999.
Sam Grindle sparked sixth-seeded Deer Isle-Stonington to back-to-back upsets of No. 3 Washburn and No. 2 Central Aroostook before the Mariners succumbed to Jonesport-Beals despite a 26-point performance by the junior guard. Grindle also scored 23 points in the semifinals as Deer Isle-Stonington ousted Central Aroostook, the defending state champion.
Matthew Alley, a four-year starter for Jonesport-Beals who was an honorable mention all-tournament choice last year, played a prominent perimeter role for the Royals but also worked inside, grabbing eight rebounds during the quarterfinals. Alley went on to score 25 points in the semifinals on 11 of 17 shooting from the field, then added 11 points to the title-game win.
McClung, the tournament MVP a year ago while leading Central Aroostook to its fourth state title in seven years, returned to Bangor with another strong two-game performance this winter. He scored 21 points in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, with 13 rebounds in the semifinal loss to Deer Isle-Stonington.
Justin Alley, an all-tournament choice in 2010 and an honorable mention selection last winter, provided Jonesport-Beals the inside strength to complement Beal and Matthew Alley. He averaged 8.7 rebounds per game during tournament play, and his 6-6 presence in the middle proved to be an effective defensive deterrent.