BANGOR, Maine — For about 17 minutes on Thursday afternoon, the Machias boys basketball team’s attack was mired in neutral thanks to a gritty Easton club.
But the inevitable Bulldogs shift was coming, and coach Jim Getchell’s club hit overdrive in a big way in the third quarter thanks to the play of Jordan Grant.
The junior guard scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter to spark a 31-9 blitz by the second-ranked Bulldogs and they never looked back en route to a 68-37 Class D North semifinal win at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The 19-1 Bulldogs advanced to their first regional championship game in at least two decades and will take on Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook who defeated Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 57-33 in the other Class D semi Thursday. The final at the Cross Center starts at 10:35 a.m. Saturday.
Third-ranked Easton, the defending regional champion, closes its season 13-6.
The valiant, hard-working Bears were able to scrap and fight throughout the first half as the Bulldogs got in some early foul trouble with big men James Mersereau and Jacob Godfrey spending most of the first half on the bench.
Mark Anthony (15 points, 15 rebounds) wound up picking up the slack, scoring 11 first-half points to help the Bulldogs go into intermission with a four-point lead.
Most of Anthony’s points came on second-chance opportunities, and he finished his day with six offensive boards.
“Mark has stepped up the last six games of the season,” Getchell said.
Noah Hanscomb gave Easton some life early in the third by drilling a perimeter shot to make it a one-point game, but Grant ignited the Bulldogs’ blitz with a corner 3-pointer and a 12-foot pullup, and Easton made just two field goals the rest of the period.
“Coach always talks the first three-five minutes are the most important,” Grant said.
Machias’ combination of length and athleticism combined to wear down the Bears as the half wore on, as their full-court pressure forced Easton into hurried passes and led to fast-break opportunities, including a Mersereau dunk that ignited the Bulldogs’ crowd.
“Anytime one of them can have a dunk, it ups our game,” said Grant, who was 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs’ depth was also a major factor, as the tired Bears struggled to keep up in the latter stages of the third quarter and into the fourth.
Big man Jacob Flewelling did all he could to keep coach Manny Martinez’s club in striking distance, scoring 18 points.
“I had to extend our defense and take a few more gambles defensively,” Martinez said. “The score didn’t indicate how good my boys were. Either way, I’m so proud of the guys. You’ve got to give Machias a lot of credit. They’re a great team.”
John Massad was the other Bulldog in double figures with 10 points, while Mersereau recorded eight points and seven rebounds.