BANGOR, Maine — It may have only been a slight upset in ranking, but No. 3 Mount Desert Island advanced to the Eastern Maine Class B finals after beating No. 2 Presque Isle 51-40 Wednesday night.
In the nightcap, Medomak Valley senior forward Ryan Ripley scored 21 points, including 16 in the second half, and senior center John Murray had 13 points,15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the top-ranked Panthers (18-2) by No. 13 Foxcroft Academy 53-30 and into Saturday’s 3:45 p.m. regional final against MDI (17-3)
In the first game, the Trojans jumped out to an early lead in the Bangor Auditorium, going up 13-12 in the first quarter. The shots weren’t falling for Presque Isle’s big men, notably senior Tyler Brooks and junior Bradley Shields. The two bigs combined for 4-of-14 from the first half, but the Wildcats were able to walk into the break with a slim lead.
In the second quarter, Presque Isle held MDI to just six points and only one field goal, while three 3-pointers by the Wildcats helped give them a slight advantage, 23-19. Shields led all scorers with six points in the first half.
Two quick third-quarter buckets by MDI’s Adam Gray gave the Trojans some momentum and they used it to take a two-point lead into the final quarter. Gray and Ben Walls were the only Trojans to score in the third, each accounting for six points. Presque Isle scored a total of six in the quarter.
“The third quarter was huge,” MDI coach Justin Norwood said. “Gray hitting those two shots helped. We said ‘don’t let this become an eight-point game.’”
In the fourth quarter, the wheels started to fall off for the Wildcats, as MDI began getting to the line almost at will. The real advantage came once MDI forced Brooks to foul out of the game midway through the fourth, finishing with four points.
MDI survived the fourth by making its free throws, going 14-of-18 from the charity stripe in the quarter and 23-28 in the game. Senior guard Keegan McKim went a perfect 8-of-8 from the stripe in the fourth quarter, scoring all 10 of his points in the final frame.
“That was the game,” Norwood said of the made free throws. “It was a representation of how we wanted to play. McKim did a great job controlling the ball.”
Presque Isle’s big three of Shields, Brooks and senior guard Jonah Stephenson couldn’t gain any offensive rhythm against a tough MDI defense, finishing a combined 8-of-31 from the floor.
“We talked about that before the game, trying to shut down their big three,” Norwood said. “We were able to do that to an extent and capitalize.”
Midway through the third quarter of the nightcap, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro was holding a tenuous 24-23 lead over Foxcroft.
But the Panthers outscored the Ponies 18-3 during a seven-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters and they went on to post a comfortable victory.
Nicholas DePatsy contributed six rebounds off the bench and Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet had five points.
Ryan Rebar had 15 points to lead Foxcroft Academy, which concluded a 10-11 season.
Hunter Smith and Hunter Law had a team-high seven rebounds apiece.
The Panthers took full advantage of their significant height advantage as the 6-foot-8 Murray and 6-5 Ripley precisely executed in the paint against the Ponies’ 2-3 zone during that decisive 18-3 run.
Ripley had 10 points and an assist in the run and Murray had four points and four assists with three of the assists coming on passes to Ripley along the base line behind the zone.
“John found me just about every time,” said Ripley. “We have been working on the high-low for a little while and we finally found the seam along the base line behind the zone. They were playing a high zone and we slid in behind it.
“John and I work great together. It’s real nice to have him as a teammate,” added Ripley.
“We executed it a lot better in the second half,” said Murray. “I had to stay high and Ryan had to stay low. We knew we were going to find gaps because their zone was so high.”
“I think we got tired,” said Foxcroft coach Dave Carey. “We knew they were trying to get it to the seam and we were getting there and we were causing some problems in the first half. But as we got tired, we were a step late getting back to the low block.
“We had to be perfect and we weren’t. We missed some free throws and some bunnies (easy shots) that could have kept us in it,” added Carey.
Murray had six points and seven rebounds in the first half as Medomak Valley took a 19-16 lead into the intermission.
Ripley and Hendrickson-Belloguet had five points each.
Ripley’s free throw broke a 16-16 tie and he converted the rebound of a Murray miss to close out the scoring in the half.
Rebar paced the Ponies with seven points and Smith came off the bench to score four points and grab four rebounds.