Hampden beats South Portland in Class A boys championship game

Members of the Hampden Academy boys basketball team, including (from left) Matt Palmer, Cameron Scott, Tyler Norris and Nicholas Gilpin, carry the gold ball to their fans at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Members of the Hampden Academy boys basketball team, including (from left) Matt Palmer, Cameron Scott, Tyler Norris and Nicholas Gilpin, carry the gold ball to their fans at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Matthew Martin kisses the gold ball while Brian Fickett carries it at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Matthew Martin kisses the gold ball while Brian Fickett carries it at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
The South Portland High School basketball team sits on its bench after losing to Hampden Academy 45-41 at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
The South Portland High School basketball team sits on its bench after losing to Hampden Academy 45-41 at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy players Cameron Scott (left) and Tyler Norris celebrate as the buzzer rings at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy players Cameron Scott (left) and Tyler Norris celebrate as the buzzer rings at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Brian Ficket (center) vies for position against South Portland High School players Jaren Muller (left) and Trevor Borelli at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Brian Ficket (center) vies for position against South Portland High School players Jaren Muller (left) and Trevor Borelli at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Nicholas Gilpin drives around South Portland High School's Tanner Hyland at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Nicholas Gilpin drives around South Portland High School's Tanner Hyland at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Samuel Scott (right) cheers on his teammates at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Samuel Scott (right) cheers on his teammates at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Brian Ficket of Hampden Academy drives around South Portland High School's Jaren Muller at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Brian Ficket of Hampden Academy drives around South Portland High School's Jaren Muller at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Matthew Martin (right) struggles with South Portland High School's Jaren Muller for possession of the ball at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Matthew Martin (right) struggles with South Portland High School's Jaren Muller for possession of the ball at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy's Matt Palmer shoots at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy's Matt Palmer shoots at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy junior forward Zach Gilpin takes a foul shot at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta.
Hampden Academy junior forward Zach Gilpin takes a foul shot at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game Saturday in Augusta. Buy Photo
The Hampden Academy boys basketball team stands arm in arm for the national anthem Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta.
The Hampden Academy boys basketball team stands arm in arm for the national anthem Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy senior forward Brian Fickett shoots over a defender from South Portland High School Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta.
Hampden Academy senior forward Brian Fickett shoots over a defender from South Portland High School Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta. Buy Photo
Hampden Academy senior forward Brian Fickett shoots over a defender from South Portland High School Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta.
Hampden Academy senior forward Brian Fickett shoots over a defender from South Portland High School Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta. Buy Photo
South Portland High School's Calvin Carr (left) pleads his innocence while a Hampden Academy player lies on the court Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta.
South Portland High School's Calvin Carr (left) pleads his innocence while a Hampden Academy player lies on the court Saturday at the Maine State Class A Basketball Championship game in Augusta. Buy Photo
Posted March 02, 2013, at 8:38 p.m.
Last modified March 03, 2013, at 4:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Hampden Academy boys entered Saturday’s Class A state championship game determined not to have their state-championship dreams derailed for the second straight year.

There would be no such letdown for the Broncos this year, as Zach Gilpin poured in a game-high 23 points and coach Russ Bartlett’s club capped off an unbeaten season with a thrilling 45-41 win over South Portland in front of a packed house at the Augusta Civic Center.

Hampden, which fell to Deering in the state final last winter, claimed its first gold ball since 2005, while South Portland, gunning for its first state championship since 1992, finishes 18-4.

The Broncs (22-0) established regional tournament MVP Gilpin early, as he scored eight of Hampden’s first 10 points as the Broncos blazed out to a 10-2 lead, a far cry from the slow start that bedeviled Bartlett’s club in the regional final against Lawrence.

“I think we just came out focused,” said Bartlett. “We wanted to get out of the gates early tonight and that’s what we did.”

A packed throng of purple-and-white fans were treated to a scintillating thriller, and the Broncos showed their resolve down the stretch as South Portland attempted to complete its comeback.

The Red Riots closed within one with 2:41 remaining on a Tanner Hyland perimeter shot, but the Broncos were able to keep the ball away from South Portland for nearly two minutes, and the reward was a backdoor layup by Brian Fickett with 40 seconds left.

“We were just looking to take some time and get a really good shot,” said Bartlett. “They didn’t come out and pressure us for quite a while. It was kind of the time they gave us.”

The Red Riots also had four fouls to give at the time, so they couldn’t put the Broncos on the line by stopping the block.

After Fickett’s layup, a Hyland 3-pointer was off the mark, and even though Hampden’s Matt Palmer missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 19.5 left, a loose rebound bounced to teammate Tyler Norris, and he was able to hit the first of two free throws to ice it.

“It looked like to me it went toward the baseline,” South Portland coach Phil Conley said. “That’s the way the bounces go sometimes.”

Another Hyland desperation 3-pointer was off the mark after Norris converted his foul shot, and the full house on the Hampden side of the Civic Center erupted in celebration.

“We had to win that game, we couldn’t lose back to back state championships,” said GIlpin, who scored 18 of his points in the first half.

Gilpin kept his composure early after he was fouled hard in the midsection by Calvin Carr in the first quarter.

“I got hit in a spot where I never want to get hit again,” he said. “You’ve just got to let it go and keep the pedal down.”

The Riots adjusted their defense in the second half, putting the 6-foot-7 John Tolan on Gilpin, and it worked to some degree while Hyland, held to two first-half points, started to assert himself offensively.

“John did a very good job,” Conley said. “It took Tanner a little bit to get going but they were playing tough ‘D’ on him. Tanner’s a very good player, he had a great second half for us.”

Hyland scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, keeping the Red Riots in the game, but Hampden never relinquished its lead.

“Tanner’s a great player, probably the best I’ve played against all year,” Gilpin said.

Fickett contributed 10 points and Matt Palmer seven for Hampden, while Tolan had 10 for the Red Riots.

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