Logan Poirier remembers well watching Hampden Academy defeat Deering of Portland to win the 2005 Class A state championship in boys basketball.
“I’m good friends with John Meehan, and his brother Blaine was playing, so I was at the ’05 game,” said Poirier. “I know Deering had one player who was very good [Carlos Strong] and Blaine just locked him up.”
It’s a similar role Poirier — now a 6-foot-6 senior forward — has with this year’s Hampden team, which will face Deering for the third time in eight years for the gold ball at 7 p.m. Saturday at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center.
“Since that game I’ve always wanted to do that to people, to lock them up,” said Poirier, who averaged 6.4 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds a game during the regular season. “That’s kind of been my role this year because we have so many options on offense with Christian [McCue] and Zach [Gilpin] and Fred [Knight], they’re all capable of having big games.”
McCue’s memories of those previous state finals against Deering — a 59-49 Hampden win in 2005 and a 47-37 Deering victory in 2006 — are a little less vivid.
“It’s kind of vague,” said McCue, whose brother Daniel was a sophomore guard on the Hampden squad. “I really just remember rooting for him.”
McCue has received some advice from his older brother — who will be playing for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the NCAA Division III tourney this weekend — about what to expect on state championship Saturday.
“He said it was going to be a lot different at the Civic Center, because when he played there it was a really physical game,” said McCue, a 6-2 guard who on Friday was named a finalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball Award. “He said we’d have to adapt once the game starts because it’s going to be surprising.”
While Hampden is 20-1 and Deering is 19-2, both teams have had to overcome numerous close calls to reach the state final. Hampden outlasted Mt. Blue of Farmington 46-44 on a basket by reserve forward Brian Fickett with 3.4 seconds left in the Eastern Maine final, while Deering edged Bonny Eagle of Standish 45-42 in the Western A title game on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by guard Pat Green.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in these kids,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, whose assistants include both Blaine Meehan and Jordan Cook, the starting center on the Broncos’ 2005 and 2006 teams. “A lot of teams that go 17-1 during the season don’t have that many close games, but we’ve had a lot of them this year, and Deering’s last two games have been very close, too. Both teams are pretty battle-tested.”
Hampden is led offensively by McCue, a 6-2 senior guard who averaged 17.2 points per game during the regular season and subsequently was named the Bangor Daily News’ Eastern A tournament MVP. Gilpin, a 6-5 sophomore averaging 11.8 ppg, and Knight, a 6-7 senior center averaging 8.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest, are among the Broncos’ other scoring threats to complement a defense that has yielded just 39.7 points per game during three postseason victories.
Deering, under 10th-year head coach Dan LeGage, features a blend of size and quickness with the backcourt of Green and Jon Amabile (18.3 ppg) and the frontcourt tandem of 6-6 junior center Labson Abwoch (13.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and 6-4 junior forward Thiwat Thiwat (7.6 rpg).
“Their two bigs against our two bigs should be a great matchup, one I’m looking forward to seeing,” said Bartlett, who is 129-55 in nine seasons as Hampden’s head coach. “Plus they’ve got good guard play, we’ll have to use our length against their quickness.”
Class C: Lee Academy (19-2) vs. Dirigo (20-1), 8:45 p.m., Augusta Civic Center: This is a rematch of the 2011 state final won by Lee 65-55.
Lee is 40-3 over the last two seasons, including seven consecutive tournament victories under veteran coach Randy Harris. The Pandas were led to this year’s Eastern Maine title by senior guard D.J. Johnson and sophomore guard Boubacar Diallo, with seniors Jasil Elder and Dustin Sawtelle also playing key roles.
Dirigo is back in the state final for the fourth straight year under a fourth different coach, Travis Magnusson, but the Cougars are in search of their first state crown since 1983.
Led by senior center Cody St. Germain and senior guard Josh Turbide, the Cougars won their three Western C tourney games by an average of 40.3 points, including a 69-38 victory over Old Orchard Beach in the final.
Class D: Jonesport-Beals (18-2) vs. Forest Hills (18-3), 2:45 p.m., Augusta Civic Center: This game matches two of the state’s smallest public high schools, with Jonesport-Beals and Forest Hills sporting a combined enrollment of 107.
Jonesport-Beals roared through the Eastern Maine tournament behind junior forward Garet Beal, senior point guard Matthew Alley and senior center Justin Alley, winning all three of its games by double digits to secure its first regional crown since 1999.
Coach Gordon Faulkingham’s Royals team, which has not lost to a Class D opponent this season, is after the program’s 10th state title overall, but first since since 1993.
Forest Hills of Jackman is making its first appearance in a boys basketball state final after coach Anthony Amero’s club rallied from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to upend the top-ranked Hyde School of Bath 61-60 in the Western Maine final
Junior forward Evan Worster, one of the elder statesman on the seniorless Forest Hills team, averaged 24.8 points per game during the regular season, then scored a Western D record 106 points in three tournament games, including a single-game high of 51 points during the quarterfinals.