BANGOR, Maine — The Machias boys basketball team has relied on an imposing front line to emerge as a force in Class D North during the past three seasons.
But the Bulldogs’ play on the perimeter Saturday proved just as important in capturing the program’s first state championship since 1995 with a 51-39 victory over Greenville at the Cross Insurance Center.
“This means everything to our team, the community, everyone,” said Machias senior guard John Massad, who came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points in this battle of finalists that had split two regular-season meetings this winter. “Oh my gosh, we’ve been doing this for so many years. So much practice, so much work and finally it’s paid off.”
Massad, who was medically cleared to play just Thursday evening after missing Machias’ previous practices this week due to mononucleosis, capitalized on Greenville’s defensive focus on 6-foot-6 Jacob Godfrey and 6-4 James Mersereau and Mark Anthony to make back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
Those two shots, followed by another 3-pointer by junior guard Jordan Grant, helped Machias stretch what had been a 28-23 edge after five straight points by Greenville star Nick Foley to 42-31 with 5:39 remaining.
“There’s always tons of pressure because teams like to pack the paint because Jacob and James are such threats down low,” said Massad. “So when we get that open look, when we get that rhythm and those threes start to fall, it’s incredible.
“The first one always makes the second one a lot easier.”
Mersereau finished with 17 points and eight rebounds while Anthony grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds as 21-1 Machias won the battle of the boards 36-29 while ending Greenville’s 20-game winning streak.
Foley, a junior guard who surpassed 1,000 career points during the Class D South tourney, paced 20-2 Greenville with 18 points but managed just seven over the final three quarters as Machias used a defensive tactic that proved successful in its victory over Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook in the regional final — a box-and-one featuring senior guard Camon Johnson.
“We stuck me on [Foley] like we did with [Southern Aroostook’s Jackson] Mathers and held him to five points, and we figured it might work because they play a similar style,” said Johnson. “He’s their main scorer so we just wanted to make their other guys have to step up for them.”
Junior forward Connor DiAngelo added nine points and junior center Devin Boone had eight points and 10 rebounds for Greenville, which was seeking its first state title since 1954.
Foley made three 3-pointers during his 11-point first quarter that gave Greenville a 13-11 lead. Machias soon went on a 13-2 run to take a 26-19 lead behind six points from Mersereau and five from Anthony before Greenville’s Evan Bjork closed out the first-half scoring with a baseline drive to make it a five-point game.
Machias began striking from the perimeter in the third quarter, with a jumper from the key by Massad and a 3-pointer just after entering the game by junior guard Alessandro Marotta stretching the lead to 33-23 as Greenville endured an 8-minute, 17-second stretch without a field goal.
“It’s been a long time coming, these guys have worked hard,” said Machias coach Jim Getchell, whose club is 56-7 over the last three seasons. “We just couldn’t quite get to that championship game before, losing a couple of times in the semifinals.
“But this year the seniors wouldn’t let us not get here. They really made the commitment.”