BANGOR, Maine — The Old Town boys basketball team entered postseason play merely hoping to win a game.
Friday night the Coyotes won it all.
Junior guard Eric Hoogterp scored 26 points and junior forward Mitchell Cole added 14 as coach Brian McDormand’s club won the program’s first state championship in 23 years with a 64-39 victory over Poland at the Cross Insurance Center.
“Three or four weeks ago we came into the tournament and we didn’t think we had the best team but we had the most heart,” said Hoogterp, who also had six rebounds, two blocks and three assists. “And we did it tonight.”
Old Town (18-5) extended its season-ending winning streak to 10 games thanks to Hoogterp’s offense, control of the backboards and a diamond-and-one defense that slowed Poland star C.J. Martin until the Coyotes had established a comfortable second-half lead.
“I felt early that they just outworked us,” said Poland coach Tyler Tracy. “They ran the floor harder than we did, got some easy buckets and rebounded well off the offensive glass, and we missed some bunnies and I didn’t do a good job preparing us for that diamond-and-one.”
Senior guard Garvey Melmed added eight points and five rebounds for Old Town along with much of the defensive work against Martin despite sitting out much of the first half after drawing two fouls.
“I hated those early fouls, but the rest of the team definitely stepped it up,” said Melmed. “They play just as well as I do, Tyler Gifford and Nick Cowan played great man-to-man defense on Martin. We knew he was their leading scorer, so we played them kind of like Caribou and Dayne (Savage in the Eastern Maine final) and it worked out well.
“He still hit a couple of tough shots, but in the end we came out on top.”
Martin led 13-9 Poland with 17 points, while Alan Young added six points and eight rebounds for the Knights.
Old Town never trailed in the contest.
Hoogterp scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field — including 3-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc — in sparking Old Town to a 28-18 halftime lead.
“He had a couple of rough games in the (Eastern Maine) tournament and he was frustrated with himself,” said Melmed of Hoogterp. “I think having a week off helped him, because he got his focus back and came into this game firing and he was hot.
“He’s taking those deep threes and you get nervous but when they go in everyone’s going crazy and it’s a huge momentum boost for us.”
The Coyotes held Poland scoreless for the game’s first 5 minutes and 47 seconds in building a 9-0 lead.
Hoogterp scored the game’s first basket on a drive, then followed a layup and two free throws by Cole with a deep 3-pointer to force a Poland timeout with 3:27 left in the period.
Poland worked the ball inside to get untracked offensively late in the first quarter, with a three-point play by Shawn Murphy and a follow-up shot by John Fossett rallying the Knights within 13-7 by the end of the first quarter.
But Hoogterp was just getting started. He hit two 3-pointers early in the second period, the second from NBA range, to help Old Town build its lead to 24-13 after Melmed had returned and made a 3-pointer of his own with three minutes left in the half.
Martin finally countered for Poland with his first two field goals of the night to pull the Knights within 26-18, but junior center Adam Richardson (four points, nine rebounds) scored after a penetrating drive by Hoogterp to give Old Town a 10-point lead at the break.
Martin scored the first five points of the second half off a pair of Old Town turnovers, the first basket a transition layup followed by a 3-pointer from the left of the key to make it a five-point game.
It was still 30-25 when Martin was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim while trying to follow in a missed layup by teammate Tyler Michaud.
Melmed made both free throws and Cowan tipped in a Hoogterp miss to extend the Old Town lead to nine points, and Hoogterp drilled another long 3-pointer fon the Coyotes’ next possession to make it 37-25 midway through the third period.
“Coach played that really well,” said Melmed. “He called a quick timeout after Martin hit those two quick shots and we got our momentum back and built back our lead.”
Old Town took a 43-32 lead into the final quarter, and Cowan and Hoogterp extended it to a 15-point Coyotes advantage a minute later, Cowan with a nice low post move 15 seconds into the period and Hoogterp with a short jumper from the lane.
Martin then banked in a jumper, but two free throws by Melmed and a fast-break basket by Cole gave Old Town a 51-34 cushion.
A 3-pointer by Poland’s Derek Michaud quelled the Coyotes’ momentum only briefly, as Cole answered with a runner and Hoogterp made four straight free throws to give Old Town a 57-37 lead with 4:30 remaining.
“Somebody asked me when we believed we could win the gold ball, and it was probably about a week ago,” said McDormand. “We never really thought about getting this far, we were just trying to get through our prelim game after last year (a 75-33 loss at Waterville).
“But once we got by MDI (in the EM quarterfinals) that was huge for us. Then things started happening with upsets in the tournament and we knew we could play with the teams that were left.”