BANGOR, Maine —Defense was the difference during Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class C boys quarterfinals at the Bangor Auditorium.
Dexter slowed Lee Academy with a 2-3 zone, while Penquis Valley of Milo shackled Stearns of Millinocket with its man-to-man defense in claiming victories.
Sixth-seeded Dexter knocked off the No. 3 Pandas 41-38, while No. 2 Penquis cruised past the No. 7 Minutemen 51-23.
That sets up Friday’s 7:05 p.m. semifinal matchup between the Tigers (13-7) and the Patriots (18-1).
In Wednesday’s first game, both teams were shorthanded. The Tigers were without senior forward Dylan Graffam (disciplinary issue) and junior forward Ethyn Gould (ankle sprain). Defending champion Lee (13-6) did not have senior guard Julian Diggs and junior guard Devin Peters for undisclosed reasons, while 6-foot-9 sophomore Brad Kong has a right wrist/hand injury.
Dexter unveiled a 2-3 zone for the first time this season and effectively bottled up Lee Academy.
“We have played some hybrid, some triangle-and-twos and things like that, so it’s not completely foreign,” said Tigers coach Peter Murray, “but to play a straight 2-3 zone for a whole game, you’d probably have to go back 25 or 30 years in Dexter’s history.”
The Pandas could not consistently get the ball inside and did not shoot well. Dexter also played patiently on offense against Lee’s assortment of defenses, including half-court traps and full-court zone pressure.
The Tigers built a nine-point lead with an 11-0 run that began late in the third quarter and extended into the fourth. Sophomore Bailey Spack (13 points) scored seven of those points, including a 3-pointer with 5:03 left that gave Dexter a 35-26 lead.
“A sophomore stepped up big for us today and hit a bunch of 3’s when it mattered,” Murray said.
The Pandas hung tough, manufacturing a 10-0 surge with the help of its pressure defense. Cherif Fall’s three-point play and a Jason Wu layup off a Kyler Peters steal put Lee on top 36-35 with 1:46 remaining.
“We could have rolled over with a young, inexperienced group, or we could claw and fight like we did,” said Lee coach Randy Harris. “I’m extremely proud of this group.”
Dexter junior Trevor Fogarty provided poise late, hitting a 14-footer with 1:01 to play. Fall answered for the Pandas, scoring off a lob from Wu to put Lee ahead 38-37 with 21 seconds left.
However, Fogarty made two free throws with 18.2 left and, after the teams traded possessions, Fogarty hit two of four from the line in the last 3.7 seconds to help the Tigers hold on.
“They’re big free throws and you’ve got to make them,” said Fogarty, who finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds.
Senior Casey Jordan provided five assists and two steals and senior Matt Crane added seven points and six rebounds.
Nathanael Thurlow paced Lee with 12 points on four 3-pointers and Wu finished with 10 points and four assists. Fall added seven points and seven rebounds despite foul trouble.
In the second game, Penquis’ defense paved the way to the Patriots’ third win of the season over Stearns.
Coach Tony Hamlin’s squad limited the Minutemen (13-7) to 28 percent shooting (10-for-36) and forced many of Stearns’ 16 turnovers.
“We play pretty tough defense, so when we go half-court man, it’s tough for teams to try and score on us,” said Penquis junior Isaiah Bess, who led all scorers with 21 points, including the 1,000th of his career. “We have quickness everywhere on the floor.”
Penquis built an early advantage, scoring the first nine points of the game during an 19-3 run that extended 1:05 into the second quarter. Junior guard Trevor Lyford (18 points) tallied 10 of the early points.
Stearns, which shot 1-for-10 in the first quarter, never recovered. The Patriots methodically extended their advantage as the game progressed
“I think we’re the best defensive team in the tournament, man-to-man,” Hamlin said. “That’s going to take you someplace. Plus, Lyford and Bess can score.”
Penquis led by as many as 28 points early in the third quarter and was deliberate in running its offense against Stearns’ zones early and its man-to-man once the Patriots pulled the ball out.
Bess went 8-for-9 at the foul line and also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots for the winners. Lyford contributed five rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Cody Herbest added five points for the Patriots, who shot 57 percent (20-for-34) from the floor.
Senior Tyler Pellitier posted two points, five assists and three steals.
Senior Kyle McVey led Stearns with 11 points and classmate Riley Whitney posed six points and seven rebounds.