AUGUSTA, Maine — The Hodgdon Hawks had their resolve tested Saturday afternoon.
The Hawks led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter of the Class D boys basketball state final, but watched Valley pare it all the way down to one.
Hodgdon refused to allow the Cavaliers to steal their dream of winning a gold ball.
Devon Quint and Chris Hudson each made two free throws in the final 17.5 seconds to enable Hodgdon to on for a 51-46 victory over Valley of Bingham at the Augusta Civic Center.
“When games end like that, it’s kind of scary, especially for the winning team,” said Hudson, a 6-foot-5 junior who piled up a game-high 21 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists.
“That’s a big swing,” he added. “You could tell the Valley crowd was really getting into it. The Valley players were feeding off that and they came back and we almost crumbled. It was good to keep our composure.”
Coach Rob Smith’s Hawks (19-3) claimed the program’s first state title since Hodgdon won the Class C crown in 1996. They did it with collective confidence and unselfishness.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” said Quint, who finished with five points and five rebounds. “It’s been our ultimate goal since Day 1, so it’s great that we did it.”
Senior Tyler Sherman logged eight points and six rebounds, senior Deyrell Vargas posted seven points and four assists, and Blake Woods provided six points for the Hawks. Keegan Gardner (3 steals), Daden Palmer and Blake Woods also made contributions.
Senior Jordan Gillespie led Western Maine champ Valley (17-5) with 14 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Teagan Staples (7 rebounds) and Cody Laweryson (5 rebounds) each tallied eight points for coach Luke Hartwell’s Cavaliers.
“My boys fought so hard to the end,” Hartwell said.
“A couple of bounces here and there and it could have been the other way,” he added.
Dylan Belanger chipped in with six points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals and Collin Miller added six points for Valley, which shot only 33 percent (18-for-55).
Valley was mired in an offensive funk for the first 19-plus minutes. The Cavaliers were staring at a 35-19 deficit with 1:52 left in the third quarter.
“We talked all week about coming out strong from the get-go,” Hartwell said. “Against a very good team like Hodgdon, you can’t do that. You can’t dig yourselves a hole that big.”
However, Valley finally started hitting some shots, which enabled them to get into their full-court zone pressure. The result was nine second-half turnovers by the Hawks.
“That definitely baffled our offense, Vargas admitted. “We knew that they were going to leave it all on the floor, it’s a state game, and that’s what they did.”
The Cavaliers were within 13 early in the fourth, before they embarked on a 12-5 run. It included two baskets by Staples and 3-pointers from Laweryson and Gillespie, whose 16-footer cut the deficit to 43-40 with 2:31 remaining.
“We knew they were going to come back because of the fact they did that against Hyde,” Smith said. “We knew the tempo was going to stay fast, if not get faster.”
After Woods scored from underneath off a Hudson assist for the Hawks, Gillespie made a foul shot and Laweryson followed with a 3-pointer that made it 45-44 with 1:18 to play.
The teams traded two free throws each, before a turnover gave Valley a chance to go in front. However, Jordan Gillespie missed a 3, which was rebounded by Quint, who was fouled.
Quint sank both free throws in the double bonus.
“ I just try to block the crowd out, don’t think about it, take it as easy as it comes. But it doesn’t come very easy,” he admitted.
On the ensuing possession, Hudson switched with Vargas to guard Laweryson.
“He made a big shot for them in their Western final,” Hudson said. “I was going to make sure he didn’t it it against us.”
Hudson anticipated a pass and made a steal that led to a foul and the clinching foul shots with 3.8 seconds left.
“We hit some big free throws and we knew in the end the free throws were going to win the game for us,” Smith said.
The Hawks forged a 26-13 halftime lead behind their tenacious defense, aggressive rebounding and patient offense.
Hodgdon outscored Valley 13-4 during the last 6:18 of the half, putting seven players in the scoring column. Hudson provided eight points and eight rebounds in the half.