ORLANDO, Fla. — Stage 1 of a tournament run that has not lacked for adversity ended in triumph for the Maine Athletic Club 17-and-under boys basketball team Tuesday, as coach Carl Parker’s club won the silver bracket championship of the AAU national 11th-grade Supershowcase.
The eight-player squad of Maine high school standouts, whose depth throughout this event was tested by ankle injuries suffered by two key players, outlasted Maryland’s Finest 52-47 in the title game played on the feature court at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
MAC will have little time to celebrate that success, with its opening game in the 140-team AAU 11th-grade Division I Boys Basketball National Tournament scheduled for 10:50 a.m. Wednesday.
MAC finished the Supershowcase with a 6-1 record, including four straight wins in silver bracket play for teams that placed second in their respective four-team pools. The Maine team’s lone loss came during pool play to the Virginia Squires, which went on to win the gold bracket crown Tuesday from among all of the pool champions.
“We’re all pretty excited to have this opportunity to go out and win six games and win the silver bracket,” said Zach Giplin, a MAC forward who will be a senior at Hampden Academy in the fall. “And we’re excited for coach Parker, because this is the first tournament he’s won down here.”
Parker, the boys varsity coach at Nokomis Regional High School of Newport during the winter and a fixture on the state and national AAU scene for more than two decades, had to deal with a roster that varied greatly throughout the late spring and early summer as players juggled their various obligations and some dealt with injuries.
That included ankle sprains that sidelined center Mike McDevitt of Greely of Cumberland Center early in the Supershowcase and guard Cam Scott of Hampden in the final few games.
“It’s about a seven [on a 1-10 scale],” said McDevitt of his ailing ankle after he contributed 11 points and seven rebounds to MAC’s title-game victory. “After the first quarter you don’t feel it because you’re running on adrenalin.”
Scott, however, remains sidelined and is likely to miss at least the early stages of the national tourney.
But as the injuries mounted, others on the roster — Gilpin, Houlton’s Kyle Bouchard, Xavier Lewis of Bangor, Andrew Cartwright of Nokomis, Justin Rogers of Falmouth and Andrew Middleton of Leavitt of Turner Center — adjusted their games to address the team’s needs.
“All along we’ve been playing with different kids at different times,” said Bouchard, the 6-5 wing player who was forced to handle point-guard duties after Scott was injured early during silver bracket competition.
“The roster kept changing because of different commitments, and then Mike went down and Cam kept down. But we kept battling nonstop and it all came together. It just comes down to five guys on the floor competing.”
That competitive nature was tested at the outset of MAC’s Supershowcase final when Maryland’s Finest won the tip and proceeded to run 2:12 off the clock before converting a three-point play to take a 3-0 lead.
That deliberate style continued throughout the first quarter, with MAC ending the period with an 8-7 lead.
Midway through the second quarter the Maine team opened up a 16-11 lead when Gilpin hit a 3-pointer and McDevitt followed with a jumper, and while Maryland rallied within 18-16, a basket by Lewis after a 3-pointer by Middleton restored MAC to a 23-16 advantage and the Mainers maintained a 25-19 edge at the break.
Maryland’s Finest scored the first two baskets of the third quarter, then used an 8-0 run while McDevitt was sidelined by foul trouble to build a 32-29 lead before baskets by Gilpin and Middleton rallied MAC to a 35-34 lead entering the final period.
Perhaps the deciding moment in the game came midway through the fourth quarter when Middleton grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds, leading to a three-point play by McDevitt that gave MAC a 43-37 lead with 3:58 to play.
The Maryland team got no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Bouchard finished with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists and Gilpin had 12 points and three rebounds, but it was Middleton’s eight points and six rebounds in a reserve role that proved decisive, Gilpin said.
“He was the first man off the bench, and he made two 3’s and had some big plays,” said Gilpin. “I can honestly say that without him we probably wouldn’t have won this game.”
Lewis contributed six points and three rebounds in the title-game effort, while Cartwright had two points and two rebounds.