BANGOR, Maine — Central Aroostook High School senior center Steven Decker went through a dramatic range of emotions Thursday night.
His free throw with 2.8 seconds left in regulation, coming after he had missed his first one, forced overtime. Then, he added six foul shots in overtime to lead third-seeded Central Aroostook to a 66-63 win over second seeded Washburn in their foul-marred Eastern Maine Class D semifinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
Central Aroostook, which had lost to Washburn twice during the regular season, will meet the winner of Thursday’s late Easton-Hodgdon game in Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. regional final.
Central Aroostook is now 16-5 while Washburn finished at 19-2.
Cameron Preston’s short jumper underneath off a Noah Caron feed capped a 10-3 run for Washburn and gave the Beavers a 58-57 lead with 12.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
But Decker was fouled on a short baseline jumper and, after missing the first one, he hit the second one to tie it.
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous,” said Decker. “But I calmed down and knocked down the second one to extend the game.”
Jarrett Olson popped in an inbounds pass and Caron hit a free throw to give Washburn a 61-58 lead in overtime but two Decker free throws pulled the Panthers within one and he hit a leaner from the paint with 1:21 left to give his team the lead for good.
“I made a cut to the basket at the 3-point line, I made an up-fake, their guy froze and I was able to go around him for an easy layup,” said Decker.
He hit two more free throws with 38.1 seconds left. He actually missed his second free throw but a lane violation gave him another try and he converted.
Nick Bragg fed Preston for a jumper to make it 64-63.
Decker was fouled and missed both free throws with 5.8 seconds left but Zack McClung used his size advantage to swat the rebound back to the 3-point line where Decker corralled it before being fouled.
He sank both free throws with 1.5 seconds left.
“I knew their players were smaller than us so that worked in our favor,” said McClung.
Washburn’s tall players, including high-scoring Mitch Worcester and Preston, had fouled out.
Decker finished with a game-high 32 points and Joe Stiles wound up with 23. McClung finished with seven points and seven rebounds and Stiles grabbed six rebounds.
Kenneth Irving game off the bench to score a team-high 16 points for Washburn.
Irving had 13 in the second half to rally the Beavers.
Worcester, who had averaged 36 points per game, was held to 11 as he was hampered by early foul trouble and a 5-for-13 shooting night. He fouled out with 4:01 left in regulation. Cameron Bragg had 10 points for Washburn and Jarrett Olson had six points and six rebounds off the bench. Caron had eight points and five assists.
“My team showed a lot of character. They battled hard,” said Washburn coach Randy Norsworthy. “This is the first time this year they’ve had to play without Mitchell [Worcester] on the court. He is our offensive leader. It was real tough for us to find offense and we had a number of unforced errors.”