BANGOR, Maine — After barely winning a slowdown game against upset-minded Easton in last year’s tournament, Hodgdon coach Rob Smith felt his team needed to be the aggressor in their meeting this time around.
That philosophy paid off as the Hawks broke open a close game by forcing six second-quarter turnovers, outscoring the Bears 15-4 along the way, en route to a 45-31 victory in Thursday afternoon’s Eastern Maine Class D boys basketball semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center.
The victory propels the third-seeded Hawks (18-3) into Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. championship game against Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, a 49-45 winner over Van Buren on Thursday.
Easton, which had made school history by going undefeated during the regular season, finished with a 20-1 mark as the region’s No. 2 seed.
“We looked to come out and pressure the ball because last year they slowed it down,” said senior guard Tyler Sherman. “We wanted to make sure things went at our pace.”
Cody Halvorson, Drew Sotomayor, Jacob Flewelling and Logan Halvorson had first-quarter field goals to get Easton off to a quick start. However, the Hawks used a 3-pointer by Devon Quint with 1:06 to play to take their first lead at 9-8. Hodgdon then took advantage of a player-control foul by Easton’s leading scorer and rebounder, Hunter Turner, which sent him to the bench for the final 6:26 of the second quarter and his team trailing 11-9.
With Turner out, Hodgdon immediately surged to a big lead. The Hawks went on an 11-3 run, which began with a short turnaround jumper by talented junior forward Chris Hudson, who added a layup and two free throws later in the period. His offensive rebound and layup off a missed free throw by Deyrell Vargas with 14 seconds left gave the Hawks a 24-12 advantage at halftime.
“It hurts them having Turner on the bench for that long so we kind of built our lead and kept it up,” Smith said.
The Hawks’ lead grew to 14 on a Vargas free throw 2:24 into the third and the margin was still 11 with less than five minutes to go in the game before Logan Halvorson (team-high 13 points) drilled a 3-pointer and a 15-footer to make it 33-27.
After a pair of missed free throws by Vargas, Turner was fouled while attempting a layup with 3:27 left for a chance to get even closer, but had to leave due to having a cut which drew blood. Flewelling, a freshman, came in to replace him and was unable to connect on either attempt. Hodgdon outscored Easton 12-4 the rest of the way to advance.
“Hodgdon is a tough team, you have to give them credit,” said Bears’ coach Dillon Kingsbury. “They shoot well and rebound well.
“We could have crumbled and lost by 20 but we fought back. I’m not disappointed in the way we played … I am proud of these guys,” he added.
Hudson led Hodgdon with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“He’s going to get every board if he possibly can,” Smith said. “He does it inside and out and he’s on a mission out there for us. He wants to bring something special home this year.”
Vargas had nine points and five boards for the winners.
Turner tallied just seven points, but hauled in a team-high eight rebounds for the Bears. Cody Halvorson also chipped in with seven points.