BANGOR, Maine — Mitchell Worcester admitted that he was a little worried during the final half-second of Monday morning’s Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinal.
Fortunately for Worcester and his Beavers, a last-ditch attempt by Bangor Christian fell short and second-ranked Washburn was able to bypass the quarterfinals with a 70-69 boys’ basketball win over the No. 7 Patriots at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I was worried a little bit,” said Worcester, who had to work for every one of his game-high 34 points. “It was in the back of my mind, that shot better not go in.”
It didn’t, so the 19-1 Beavers will take on No. 3 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill in a Thursday semifinal. The Panthers defeated No. 11 Katahdin of Stacyville, 67-56 in Monday’s first game.
In the later game, the scrappy, athletic Patriots gave the Beavers all they could handle, holding Worcester to seven points in the first half.
“Our guys played MItch hard,” said Patriots coach and former University of Maine star Kevin Reed. “I just wanted him to work hard for his points.”
Bangor Christian (13-7) led by as many as seven in the first half and by five at the break, but Worcester scored the Beavers’ first 12 points of the third quarter to give Washburn a 45-44 lead near the halfway point.
“We ran our zone offense which gets [Worcester] going in the paint area so we got some easier looks in the middle,” Washburn coach Randy Norsworthy said. “That’s really what got us going.”
The fourth quarter was a battle of attrition, as both teams would not surrender.
Washburn did start the period on an 8-0 run thanks to two Worcester 3-pointers and a foul line jumper by Cameron Bragg, but the Patriots scored the next six to tie it back up at 61.
Worcester would again respond, converting a conventional 3-point play and a layup to push the lead back up to five, but a perimeter shot by Cody Collins brought the Pats within two.
After Worcester and Ben Bragg traded layups, Collins nailed a 3-pointer off a Kenneth Van Dine steal to put BC up 69-68 with 32 seconds left in regulation.
Worcester converted two foul shots after he was fouled driving to the hoop, and David Peters’ 3-point attempt came up short.
After Worcester missed two foul shots — the second on purpose — with 1.5 left, the Patriots had one last chance with a miracle, but Van Dine missed a tap-in attempt with 0.5 left.
“They’re a great team; they get after it on defense and on the boards,” Worcester said. “It was great to beat that team and give us some confidence going into the next game.”
Defensive pressure applied by Pearson and Van Dine most of the game gave Worcester fits, and Reed consistently kept one or both players on the Beavers’ sharpshooter, who scored 27 points in the second half.
Pearson’s 18 points led Bangor Christian while Bragg finished with 10.
In the early game, third-ranked Central Aroostook was able to wear down No. 11 Katahdin with its ball pressure and depth.
“We pressed them a little bit and I think that took a little bit out of them to try and break the pressure,” Panthers coach Tim Brewer said.
Central Aroostook is now 15-5 while Katahdin wraps up the season 8-12.
The Cougars hung tough early thanks to the shooting of Wyatt Morse, but Central Aroostook closed the first period on a 10-2 run to establish a four-point lead, which grew to nine by halftime.
It turns out it was Central Aroostook’s 3-point shooting that was the difference in the game, with Chandler Brewer and Joe Stiles combining to shoot 6-of-11 from the perimeter.
Those two were also clutch from the foul line down the stretch, with Stiles hitting all three of his foul shots in the fourth quarter and Brewer going 6-of-6 from the stripe to keep the Cougars at bay.
Katahdin got no closer than seven in the final eight minutes.
“They shot the ball extremely well from the foul line,” Brewer said of his team. “We shot well from the line.”
Steven Decker was also a key contributor from the foul line, hitting on six of his eight fourth-quarter attempts.
Decker finished with 19 points, Brewer 27 and Stiles 17 for Central Aroostook.
For the Cougars, Colton Bivinghouse had 15 points, Bill Livezey 18 and Morse finished with nine.