BANGOR, Maine — With fifth-seeded Hodgdon having a height advantage, the No. 8 Easton Bears decided to play a deliberate style in an attempt to keep their Eastern Maine Class D boys semifinal game close to the end.
The tactic worked, but the Hawks were able to keep from falling behind and eventually pulled out a 26-24 victory Thursday night at the Bangor Auditorium.
Hodgdon (17-4) will face No. 3 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill in Saturday’s 10:35 a.m. final. Central Aroostook tipped No. 2 Washburn 66-63 in overtime earlier Thursday.
“Easton is feisty. I knew they would be tough,” said Hodgdon coach Robert Smith.
“They’re 6-foot-5, 6-4 and they like to run,” said Easton coach Dillon Kingsbury. “As a team, we determined our best shot was to slow the tempo and get good shots.”
Jared Hafford pulled the Bears, who had upset No. 1 Jonesport-Beals in their previous game, into a tie with the Hawks at 23-23 by hitting a basket with 2:51 remaining in the game.
It was the first score by either team in the fourth quarter.
Coming back the other way, the Bears (16-5) focused on the Hudson brothers, senior forward Josh and sophomore forward Chris. The ball went down into the left corner to Chris Hudson, but there was no opening as the Bears closed in.
Meanwhile, senior guard Nick Lunn was all alone on the far side of the lane — waving his arms and yelling for the ball.
Chris Hudson finally fired the ball to Lunn, and his uncontested layup gave the Hawks the lead for good.
“Chris stayed under control the whole game,” said Smith. “He would draw a double-team every time he got the ball. Thankfully, that left the weak side open and he took advantage.”
Smith has found the 6-5 Chris Hudson to be a heady player.
“Chris is a sophomore, but he plays like a senior,” said Smith. “He’s Mr. Cool out there.”
Hafford hit the first of two free throws to close the gap to one with 13.7 seconds left, and the Bears harried the Hawks in the backcourt after the inbounds pass.
Just as Chris Hudson unleashed a pass from the right side before the half-court line to senior forward Devin Logie driving to the basket from the left side, Smith called a timeout, wiping out Logie’s easy layup with 9.8 seconds left.
Easton then fouled four times in 4.3 seconds as they tried to get Hodgdon into a shooting situation so the Bears could get the ball.
The slow tempo was the reason for all the fouling at the end.
“When you slow the tempo down, there aren’t as many chances to foul,” said Kingsbury.
And he resorted to fouls because that offered a better chance to catch the Hawks.
“If we went for a steal and missed, then four seconds would run off the clock and we would have no chance to win,” said Kingsbury.
“It was excruciating,” said Smith of the fouls in the closing seconds, but he understood why the Bears did it. He just wanted Chris Hudson to take the last inbounds pass because he could handle the pressure at the free-throw line.
“I felt confident taking the free throws, but then I didn’t make the second one,” said Hudson with a smile.
Hafford’s last attempt to tie the game fell short and Hodgdon ran off the last couple of ticks.
Josh Hudson led Hodgdon with eight points and Chris Hudson and Lunn added six points each.
Hafford hit five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points for the Bears.