AUGUSTA, Maine — The No. 1 seed has been in a precarious position during the earliest stages of this year’s Eastern Maine boys basketball tournament, with Class B Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Class D Washburn both dropping their first postseason contests.
The reigning Class A state champion and two-time defending Eastern Maine titleist Hampden Academy Broncos experienced no such upset anxiety Monday afternoon, erupting in the second half to overwhelm No. 8 Lewiston 85-47 in a regional quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I was really happy with our effort,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, whose unbeaten Broncos (19-0) outscored Lewiston 56-30 after intermission. “I wasn’t happy with our execution in the first half, especially as experienced as we were and with how much we worked against their zone, but in the second half I thought we settled in and really played well.”
The victory was the 41st straight overall and eighth consecutive in tourney play at the ACC for Hampden, which will face No. 5 Edward Little of Auburn in Wednesday night’s semifinals. Edward Little defeated No. 4 Messalonskee of Oakland 68-57 on Monday morning to earn its seventh consecutive semifinal berth.
Senior forward Zach Gilpin led a balanced Hampden offense with 19 points and eight rebounds, while senior wing Isaiah Bess added 15 points and four steals. Sophomore forward Brendan McIntyre came off the bench to score 15 points, with 13 coming in the second half on 5-of-5 shooting — including three 3-pointers.
“I felt like we just weren’t knocking down our shots early,” said sophomore point guard Nick Gilpin, who added 13 points, seven assists and four steals for the Broncos. “I know Brendan got really hot in the second half. He had three straight threes at one point. We had a lot better ball movement then, and we found the open shots more, and I thought we outworked them on the offensive end, which was good for us.”
Hampden’s defense, meanwhile, limited Lewiston to 29 percent (16 of 55) shooting from the field and forced 25 turnovers from a Blue Devils’ offense that was slowed by foul trouble to 6-foot-6-inch forward Carlos Gonzalez.
Hampden’s defense often led to instant transition offense, highlighted by second-quarter dunks by Bess and Zach Gilpin. It became even more pronounced during the third quarter, when the Broncos outscored Lewiston 32-11 to extend a 29-17 halftime advantage to a 61-28 cushion.
“The first half we didn’t reverse the ball at all and ended up playing on one side of the court a lot and settled for good shots but not great shots,” said Bartlett. “We didn’t make them guard us a lot, and we over-drove the ball on the baseline a couple of times to force things.
“In the second half, we talked about making them guard both sides of the floor more. And when they switched from zone defense to man-to-man, we could kind of get what we wanted to at that point because we could get the ball in the paint.”
Gonzalez finished with a team-high 11 points for 9-11 Lewiston.