BANGOR, Maine — The dominance the top-ranked George Stevens Academy boys basketball team displayed during their first two games of Tourney Week 2016 was missing in the first half of Saturday night’s Class C North final.
That was until sophomore guard Taylor Schildroth unleashed his offensive arsenal, providing the spark the Eagles needed to surge past Hancock County rival Bucksport 55-43 and secure their first regional title since 2003.
Schildroth attacked the basket almost at will at times during the game to score a game-high 32 points, including 16 points in the first half to help erase an early 10-0 deficit and 10 more points in the third quarter to help coach Dwayne Carter’s club take the lead for good.
“We hung around,” said Bucksport coach Larry Deans, whose team fell to GSA for the third time this winter. “But they’re good. They’re just very, very, very good, and with Schildroth going off for 32, he couldn’t miss. And it wasn’t like they were uncontested shots, they were all contested.”
GSA, now 20-1, will face Waynflete of Portland for the state title in Augusta next Saturday night. Waynflete defeated Winthrop 43-41 in overtime in Saturday’s Class C South final.
Third-ranked Bucksport ended its season with a 16-5 record.
Schildroth shot 13 of 24 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and also grabbed seven rebounds.
“Taylor spurred our offense and he spurred our defense some,” said Carter. “He hit people on the break, he sees the court really well, and he can go to the basket. He can go by anybody.”
GSA big men Max Mattson and Nick Szwez both battled foul trouble but combined for 12 points and 18 rebounds, while junior guard Beckett Slayton and junior forward Jarrod Chase added six points each.
Senior forward Tyler Pye paced Bucksport with 20 points and five rebounds, while center Riley Macleod scored 10 points and grabbed 11 boards.
It was all Golden Bucks in the early going, as Pye hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help stake his team to a 10-0 lead barely four minutes into the contest.
GSA didn’t score until Schildroth converted from the lane with 2:17 left in the opening period, then followed a 3-pointer by Jarrod Chase with a 3-pointer and another runner to pull the Eagles within 12-10 by the end of the period.
GSA made just 4 of 17 shots in the opening eight minutes of play.
“First off we hadn’t been in a game like this before so that was a little shell-shocking,” said Szwez of his team’s slow start. “We missed a lot of shots in that first quarter. There was probably a nine-minute stretch when we didn’t score much at all.”
Bucksport built its lead back to 19-12, then watched as Schildroth scored seven unanswered points to tie the game before Pye took a pass from Macleod in for a layup to give the Golden Bucks a 21-19 halftime edge.
The low score favored a Bucksport team that scored just 41 and 34 points in its regular-season losses to George Stevens, but Schildroth saw to it that the scoring pace didn’t last.
The Eagles outscored Bucksport 8-0 to open the third quarter, with Schildroth scoring three straight baskets after Chase hit a game-tying 15-footer.
Bucksport hung close the rest of the way, but never fully recovered.
“I think we were settling at first and I think that came from me, I kind of settled for a couple of jump shots that weren’t the best looks early in the game,” said Schildroth. “So we got down and coach said to get it to the rack and we started getting layups. I got a rhythm going and my teammates started finding me.”
The George Stevens lead was 38-30 entering the final period, and after Mattson hit a layup and Chase added two free throws to extend the lead to double digits Bucksport got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.