BANGOR, Maine — A Saturday night fraught with struggle ended in celebration for the George Stevens Academy boys basketball team.
Jarrod Chase’s 3-pointer over two defenders with 1.2 seconds remaining gave the Eagles a dramatic 47-44 victory over Winthrop in a battle of unbeatens for the Class C state championship at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
“This is the coolest moment of my life so far,” the 6-foot-3 senior forward said. “I’ve always dreamed of hitting a buzzer beater, but to do it in a state game is unreal.”
George Stevens Academy (22-0) trailed 42-36 after a runner by Winthrop’s Bennett Brooks with 2:14 left before Eagles’ junior guard Taylor Schildroth buried back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with 1:27 to play.
Winthrop regained the lead on a follow-up shot by 6-foot-8 center Cam Wood with 1:05 to go, but Percy Zentz made two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound to leave the teams stalemated at 44-44 with 47.4 seconds remaining.
Winthrop worked the clock down to a timeout with 19.2 seconds left and when the Ramblers then tried to inbound the ball from the right wing, Schildroth tipped Brooks’ pass into the air and then knocked it off Brooks and out of bounds to give George Stevens Academy the final possession.
Schildroth then dribbled into the lane before passing the ball out to Chase, who took one dribble to his left before launching his game-winner from beyond the top of the key.
“I knew they would think Taylor would take the shot, and I wanted to run the time down so they wouldn’t get another opportunity,” George Stevens Academy coach Dwayne Carter said. “Jarrod set a ball screen for Taylor, Taylor came off it and Jarrod popped to take the shot. If Taylor could get to the rim he would, but the main plan was to kick it to Jarrod because he had just hit two threes earlier.
“When it left Jarrod’s hand I knew it was in. I’ve seen it enough so I could tell.”
Schildroth, who battled the flu throughout the week leading up to the game along with George Stevens junior center Max Mattson, struggled for much of the night, but he finished with 23 points to go with his late-game heroics.
“I told my team that George Stevens was full of good players and great players and special players, and Taylor’s a special player,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “What he did in the last two minutes showed why he’s a special player.”
Chase scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point land, while junior forward Stefan Simmons scored six points and was joined by Zentz in helping George Stevens withstand playing much of the game without the 6-foot-6 Mattson, who fouled out with 1:05 left in the third quarter.
Senior guard Jacob Hickey paced 21-1 Winthrop with 13 points, 11 in the first quarter before George Stevens Academy switched to a matchup zone defense with guards Beckett Slayton and Caden Mattson limiting the Ramblers’ 1,000-point scorer to two free throws over the final three periods.
Wood and Garrett Tsouprake each scored 11 points for Winthrop.
George Stevens Academy held a 23-21 halftime lead despite committing 12 turnovers — the Eagles had 20 for the game — and with Mattson in foul trouble.
Winthrop got off to a quick start in the second half and led 33-28 when Mattson drew his fourth and fifth fouls just seconds apart late in the third quarter.
Schildroth hit a runner to draw George Stevens Academy within 33-30 by the end of the period, and Chase made back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth to rally the Eagles to a 36-36 tie.
George Stevens Academy went scoreless for the next four minutes, while Winthrop scored six unanswered points to regain control, as Wood made two from the line and Brooks drove to the basket twice to give the Ramblers their 42-36 edge.
“We just dug in,” Carter said. “The last two timeouts I said to them, ‘We need to believe, believe, believe,’ and we did.”