WALDOBORO, Maine — The Medomak Valley boys basketball team ended a 33-year dry spell last Saturday when it defeated Mount Desert Island to win the Eastern Maine Class B championship.
Not since 1980 — when the Panthers won the Western B crown — had the program brought home a regional championship plaque, not to mention the state title they won that same year during Art Dyer’s final season as head coach before moving on to Westbrook.
It had been a long wait for those who had passed through the school’s hallways since then, including the head coach, who was a sophomore playing on the Medomak Valley junior varsity team the last time the varsity struck gold.
“I’m very pleased for the community, the fans, the school, the parents and all the alumni from 1980 until now who’s been part of it,” said Nick DePatsy, now in his sixth year as head coach at his alma mater after previous stops in Madison, Georges Valley of Thomaston and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle. “This is for them, and we’re going to go down [to Portland] and give it everything we’ve got.”
DePatsy’s team enters Friday’s 9 p.m. clash for the state title against Falmouth at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center with a 19-2 record after defeating Camden Hills of Rockport, Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft and MDI to win its regional tournament.
The Panthers feature the frontcourt tandem of 6-foot-8-inch senior John Murray and 6-5 classmate Ryan Ripley.
Murray already has been named the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B player of the year, the Bangor Daily News Eastern B tournament most valuable player and a semifinalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball award, while Ripley also was named to the All-KVAC Class B first team and to the Eastern B all-tourney squad.
Murray and Ripley have been complemented by a deep corps of guards that includes seniors Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet, Brandon Soper, Boone Olsen and Kazu Tibbetts, sophomore Micah Williamson and freshman Nicholas DePatsy, the coach’s son.
The Panthers will be challenged by a Falmouth team that despite graduating all five starters from a year ago has been largely dominant in rolling to its second Western Maine crown in four years after winning the 2010 state title with a 73-65 overtime win over Camden Hills.
The 20-1 Yachtsmen secured their 17 regular-season victories by an average of 28.9 points per game, with their only defeat a 65-39 loss at York on Feb. 5.
But Falmouth avenged that setback in the Western Maine final, defeating the Wildcats 67-46 to cap off a regional tournament run during which it allowed just 32.7 points per contest while defeating York, Mountain Valley of Rumford and Maranacook of Readfield by an average of 28.3 points.
Falmouth is guided by Dave Halligan, who is 436-101 with six state titles and nine Western Maine crowns in 26 years as head coach, and features a balanced offensive attack led by 6-5 senior Charlie Fay, a Mr. Basketball semifinalist after posting team-high regular-season averages of 12.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this winter.
Jack Simonds, a 6-5 sophomore who averaged 11.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest during the regular season, 6-3 senior forward Tom Wilberg, 6-6 senior center Jake Horning, 6-2 senior point guard Grant Burfiend and 5-9 freshman sixth man Thomas Coyne are other key players for the Yachtsmen.
“They’re very good, I can tell you that,” said DePatsy. “They present some matchup problems for us with their guards. They have tall guards, and they impressed me with the way they move the ball. They’re very unselfish, they run their offense to perfection, and every shot they take is a good shot.
“Defensively they’re very smart, the play the passing lanes really well and get a lot of deflections. We’ll have to mix it up against them.”
Four of a kind
DePatsy and the other three coaches guiding Eastern Maine boys basketball teams into this weekend’s state championship games have more than that shared opportunity in common.
All are coaching at their alma mater.
Tenth-year Hampden Academy coach Russ Bartlett, whose team will play South Portland for the Class A crown at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday night, is a Newburgh native and 1995 Hampden graduate who played two years of varsity basketball for the Broncos under coach Earl Anderson.
Tony Hamlin, who guided Penquis Valley of Milo to the Eastern C crown and a date against Boothbay for the state title Saturday night at the Bangor Auditorium, was a star guard at both Milo High School and Penquis, playing his first two years at Milo and his final two years at Penquis after SAD 41 was formed during the late 1960s.
And Tim Brewer, who will attempt to lead Central Aroostook of Mars Hill to its fifth Class D state title in the last nine years when it faces Forest Hills of Jackman for the gold ball in Bangor on Saturday afternoon, helped that school win the 1994 Class D state crown during his playing days with the Panthers.