LEE, Maine — The free-throw line had been a source of angst for Nick Guiod through four quarters and the first overtime of Saturday afternoon’s Class C boys basketball showdown between Houlton and Lee Academy.
But as the rivals entered a second four-minute overtime, Houlton’s junior point guard found a renewed level of concentration, making 5 of 6 late free-throw attempts to help the undefeated Shiretowners escape Mallett Gymnasium with a 71-69 victory.
“When it comes down to crunch time a switch turns on in your head,” said Guiod, who was just 6 of 12 from the line entering the second overtime. “You have something inside you as a player that tells you it’s the end of the game and you know you have to make these if you want to win. It comes down to how bad you want to win the game, and I want to win bad.”
Houlton is now 9-0 after edging Lee in their rematch of last February’s Eastern C title game, while the two-time defending regional champion Pandas are now 6-2.
Lee held a 57-52 lead with less than two minutes left in the first overtime before Houlton’s Kyle Bouchard and Isaiah Straubel hit 3-pointers within a 26-second span and Guiod later tied the game at 59-59 with a steal and free throw that forced the second overtime.
A baseline jumper by Daniel Swallow snapped a 63-63 tie with 1:38 left in the second overtime and gave Houlton the lead for good.
Guiod and Lee’s Devin Peters each made four free throws, then Guiod added his fifth free throw of the second extra period to give Houlton a 70-67 lead with 26.3 seconds remaining.
“Guiod stepped up and made a lot of big foul shots and really took over the leadership after Bouchard fouled out,” said Houlton coach Rob Moran. “I thought we had a couple of bad trips defensively where we committed stupid fouls, but he did a nice job taking care of the ball and made almost all his foul shots down the stretch.”
Peters made it a one-point game on a drive to the basket with six seconds left, then Swallow made 1 of 2 from the line with 0.4 seconds left, leaving Lee time only for a desperation heave that came up short.
“We had them by five in the overtime and I’ll take my chances with that,” said Lee coach Randy Harris. “But Bouchard hit a tough pull-up 3 and Straubel hit another one, and if they don’t hit both of those they probably don’t beat us but they hit couple of big shots. We battled them until the end and just came up a little short.”
Bouchard led Houlton with 20 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 15.7 seconds left in the first overtime. Swallow added 19 points and seven rebounds while Guiod had 13 points and five assists and Straubel scored 12 points.
Senior center Steven Ma led Lee with game-high totals of 21 points — 13 during the fourth quarter and overtimes — and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Julian Diggs, who sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the fourth period, had 15 points and four assists before becoming one of four Pandas to foul out of the contest in addition to the absence of 6-foot-9-inch center Brad Kong to an ankle injury.
Jason Wu finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for Lee, while Peters scored 12 points.
“We had a lot of close games last year and a lot of them went the other way,” said Moran, whose team went 8-10 during the 2011-12 regular season before surging to the EM final. “Being battle tested I think helped us down the stretch last year. Last year we played a super tough schedule, and it’s still pretty tough this year.”
Houlton threatened an early blowout of the Pandas, building a 33-18 second-quarter lead while Lee struggled with the Shiretowners’ zone defense.
But Bouchard drew his third foul with 1:42 left in the first half, and Lee immediately capitalized as Diggs hit a 3-pointer and then fed Ma for a layup and Peters for a 3-pointer that pulled the Pandas within 34-26 at halftime.
Lee kept coming, taking its first lead since 2-0 at 39-36 on a 3-pointer by Diggs with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
The Pandas took a 41-39 lead into the final period, but Guiod fed Bouchard for a low-post basket and Kole Buzzeo for a fast-break layup to regain the lead for Houlton. The Shiretowners’ edge held between one and four points throughout the late stages of regulation until Diggs hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game off an inbounding pass from Wu to send the game into overtime.
“They’re a team that I can very easily see making it back to the Eastern Maine final,” said Moran of Lee. “They have a lot of good pieces. The obviously have all kinds of size and a very good point guard. They’re going to be tough, they’re going to get better and better, and obviously we have to continue to get better, too.”