BANGOR, Maine — Caribou has been able to wear down opponents with strong defense and a balanced, well-oiled offense.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Vikings rode a stellar individual performance from senior Dayne Savage into the Eastern Maine championship game.
The speedy guard lit up Hermon for a game-high 32 points on 10-for-15 floor shooting, propelling the No. 4 Vikings to a 58-39 victory over No. 8 Hermon at the Cross Insurance Center.
Coach Chris Casavant’s team (17-4) faces No. 6 Old Town (16-5), a 53-50 winner over Ellsworth, in Saturday’s 3:45 p.m. title game.
“We lost in the first round last year, exact same starting lineup. We got a taste of that,” said Savage, who used his quickness off the dribble to attack the basket.
“We were determined this year to go all the way,” he added. “So far, so good.”
Savage went 11-for-13 from the foul line for Caribou, which will make its first EM championship game appearance since the 1983 Vikings won the title.
The Vikings were patient and broke down Hermon’s man-to-man defense, shooting 20-for-34 (59 percent) from the field.
“They know our system very well, they’ve bought into the system, and they know if they follow the system, they’ll win,” Casavant said.
Savage was the catalyst, although Caribou had strong contributions from Matthew Milliard (9 points), Derek Richardson (6 points) and Cody Herbert (4 points, 5 rebounds), along with Kameron Manter and Donovan Savage.
“This is the first time we’ve played them where one guy has had that kind of a game and he [Dayne Savage] had a great game today,” said Hermon coach Mark Reed. “They usually hurt us with the way they spread out their offense.”
It was the third win of the season for the Vikings over the Hawks (12-9). Caribou’s defense was able to take away most of Hermon’s options other than senior guard Tyler Thayer, who finished with 26 points on 9-for-24 shooting.
“We thought if we could rotate three or four guys guarding him, he would start to break down,” Casavant said. “I’m not sure that he did, but it was a good thought.”
Sophomore Tyler Beaton contributed nine points for the Hawks, while junior Joe Plummer posted four points and six rebounds.
Dayne Savage helped the Vikings start well. He scored four points during a 12-0 first-quarter spurt that gave them a 14-4 lead. Caribou never trailed after that.
The Vikings scored eight points in the last 1:39 of the period. Dayne Savage’s steal led to a fast-break layup by his brother Donovan, then Dayne threw in a runner from the lane. Manter made a steal that led to Herbert’s fast-break scoop shot and Dayne Savage snipped a 16-foot jumper with five seconds left in the quarter to send the Vikings on their way.
“[Dayne Savage] relies on his quickness and that quick first step,” Casavant said. “He is such a good passer, too, that if you start to float, the big guys know to cut to the hoop and Dayne will find you.”
Hermon was within 11 after three, but Milliard sandwiched a conventional three-point play and a 16-footer around a Thayer 3-pointer, then Dayne Savage slashed to the hoop to make it 45-30 with 4:58 remaining.