BANGOR, Maine — The Penquis defense limited Dexter to a 3-pointer in the first quarter and the Patriots of Milo jumped out fast and cruised to a 45-23 Eastern Maine Class C boys’ basketball semifinal victory Friday night at the Bangor Auditorium.
The No. 2 seed Patriots (19-1) will face No. 1 Houlton, a 49-35 winner over No. 5 Calais in the last game Friday night. Dexter, ranked No. 6, finished 13-8.
Despite the big win, Penquis coach Tony Hamlin wasn’t entirely happy.
“Defensively, we are [playing well],” he said. “But our offense was not there tonight.”
Junior guard Isaiah Bess of Penquis led all scorers with 15 points, including a steal followed by a two-handed slam dunk with 3:47 left in the game that concluded the scoring in the contest.
Hamlin had hoped for a smoother performance, though. Bess was erratic from the floor, shooting 5-for-16 from the floor, including the thunderous dunk that brought a roar from the Patriot fans.
“Bess did not play particularly well offensively,” said Hamlin, who did have praise for reserve center Derrick Johnson.
“Johnson came off the bench and scored eight points,” Hamlin said. “He was the player of the game.”
Penquis and Dexter split during the regular season with Penquis winning 44-26 on Dec. 20 at Dexter, while the Tigers pulled out a 58-54 victory at Milo on Jan. 7.
Penquis took a 13-3 lead after the first quarter, getting points from five different players.
After a near-even second quarter, the Patriots began to pull away again in the third and eventually built the lead to 22 with 5:30 remaining in the game.
Junior forward Trevor Lyford added seven points for Penquis, and senior forward Cody Herbest had six.
“The key for us is Trevor Lyford,” said Hamlin. “If Lyford gets 15 to 20 points, we’re tough to beat.”
Junior guard Trevor Fogarty topped the Tigers with nine points, and senior guard Casey Jordan had six.
“Dexter played well. We had to earn it,” said Hamlin.
Dexter coach Peter Murray knew his team was in for a fight.
“Their defense is so tough, they’ll expose you [if you’re not playing well],” said Murray. “If you can’t match them, they’ll hurt you.”
In the nightcap, Calais tried to slow Houlton down early with their deliberate offense. Later, the Blue Devils tried to speed the Shiretowners up with some full-court pressure.
Top-seeded Houlton had answers for both tactics.
The Shiretowners executed patiently in the first half, then were able to negotiate the pressure late while earning the victory and improving to 19-1.
“We’ve had some teams get deliberate and try to spread us out, but maybe not to that extent,” Moran said. “We just kind of melted a couple different times [against the press].”
Fifth-seeded Calais wound up 16-5.
The Shires built an 11-point first-half lead and led 23-9 before experiencing some turnover woes against a 2-2-1 zone press in the third quarter. Houlton committed six of its 15 turnovers in the period.
“They got into some pressure in the second half and it really did get to us a little bit. That’s how they got back in it,” said Houlton sophomore Kyle Bouchard (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals).
Calais responded by going on a 14-2 run that included four points from senior Devin Hall (14 points, 3 steals) and cut the deficit to 25-23 with 1:29 to play in the third.
However, Houlton scored six straight points, including four free throws, to stay in front.
The Shires were forced to repel one more charge as Kyle Johnson (8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) scored three points during a 7-0 fourth-quarter surge. However, Bouchard netted four points in a 9-0 Houlton burst that ended the suspense.
“We fight to the end and the kids showed a lot of pride,” Leeman said. “When you try to make runs and you miss some foul shots, it’s hard to get back.”
Calais was 7-for-17 from the foul line.
Junior guard Nick Guiod (11 points) was instrumental in helping Houlton negotiate the press in the fourth quarter.
“He’s quick and he’s got a real good handle,” Moran said. “He had some huge plays for us down the stretch, some big baskets.”
Junior guard Kole Buzzeo posted 11 points and six rebounds, while Dan Swallow (4 points, 5 rebounds) and Jacob Drew (5 points, 4 rebounds) also were key contributors.
Houlton shot 56 percent (19-for-34) from the field and made 12 of 18 foul shots.
Tyler Niles added five points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils.