BANGOR, Maine — There is no substitute for tournament experience once a team arrives in Bangor.
That may have been the difference for the Calais Blue Devils on Tuesday.
Junior forward Kyle Johnson demonstrated his postseason confidence, scoring eight of his game-high 29 points in the last five minutes to help No. 2 Calais hold off No. 7 Orono 55-52 in an East Class C boys quarterfinal at the Cross Insurance Center.
In the opener, No. 3 Lee Academy posted a 75-58 quarterfinal win over 11th-seeded George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill. Lee and Calais square off in Friday’s 2:05 p.m. semifinal.
Johnson was the difference as coach Ed Leeman’s Blue Devils (16-3) survived a gritty performance by a youthful Orono ballclub (10-10).
“We never gave up, just kept scratching and clawing like we did all year,” Johnson said. “We didn’t go 15-3 to lose in the first round. I don’t think we’re going to panic.”
Calais prevailed by harassing Orono with pressure and trapping defenses while overcoming its own turnover problems. The game went down to the final play with a 3-pointer by the Red Riots’ Daniel Heeger that rimmed out at the buzzer.
Johnson dominated in the paint early, scoring 21 of his points in the first half. He finished with seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Tyler Niles tallied 14 points and was active on the boards, snatching 14 rebounds. Andre Paul added six points.
Jake Koffman, one of three freshman starters, was a force in the paint for coach Jason Coleman’s Orono squad. He scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots with three steals and two assists.
Alik Espling netted 11 points, Heeger finished with nine points and five rebounds and Justin White had five assists for the Red Riots.
The Blue Devils built an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter as Johnson scored eight straight points during an 8-1 run that put Calais up 52-44 with 2:23 to play.
“Our defense picked it up a little bit,” Leeman said. “We started getting some stops, finally.”
“We hung on long enough to get what we needed,” he added.
The Red Riots rallied behind the physical play of Koffman, who scored five points to cut the deficit to 53-49 with 30.7 seconds left.
Cordell Hold answered with two free throws, but Heeger knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game with 16 seconds to play.
Johnson was fouled and missed both, before Orono came up shy on two 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
“I thought we did a good job in the fourth quarter, fighting back to get a one-possession game with no timeouts,” Coleman said. “The kids played hard.”
In the opener, Lee Academy came out firing, hitting 10 of its first 13 shots — including four 3-pointers — on the way to a commanding 15-point advantage and the victory.
“They’ve got some good, skilled kids and some athletes, some people that want to shoot the [3-pointer] and get down the floor with us, and we thought we could outscore them,” said Lee coach Randy Harris.
The Pandas (16-3) exhibited offensive balance and caused problems for George Stevens Academy with their trapping and pressure.
Senior forward Cherif Fall registered a double-double with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds and also blocked four shots. He went 9-for-12 from the field.
Jay Chen (5 assists, 2 steals) hit four 3-pointers en route to 15 points, Charles Tung-Fang tossed in 13 points, Lewis Wang contributed 10 and Frank Tsoungui posted nine points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Coach Dwayne Carter’s Eagles (10-10) were led by 14 points and eight rebounds from Brett Ingraham and 13 points from Kelsey Allen. Khemani Peaseley added nine points.
Lee surged to a 17-3 lead, sparked by six points from Fall and three 3-pointers.
“That’s what coach asks us to do, to go hard every time, just move the ball,” Fall said. “That was our objective, to make them move, make them run.”
The Pandas cooled off, and George Stevens Academy clawed back within 30-22 three minutes into the second quarter behind the play of Allen.
Lee responded with a decisive 13-0 burst that featured six points from Tung-Fang as the Pandas led 43-22 with 3:29 left in the first half.
“We’re confident in all 14 guys on the roster shooting a 3 if they’re open,” said Harris, whose team went 11-for-22 from long range.
Lee led by as many as 25 points before the Eagles rattled off the first 13 points of the fourth quarter. Lee’s starters returned to help close out the victory.