AUGUSTA, Maine — Taylor Schildroth, Max Mattson and Stefan Simmons have been the foundation of a George Stevens Academy boys basketball juggernaut that went in search of its third straight Class C state championship Saturday night.
The trio turned their final high school game into an impromptu Senior Night, but instead of being presented roses they captured another gold ball after combining for 51 points and 25 rebounds as the Eagles defeated Hall-Dale of Farmingdale 64-59 at the Augusta Civic Center.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Mattson, the Eagles’ 6-foot-6 center. “We told each other that this is our last game and we didn’t want to regret anything so we just went out and left it all on the court. We didn’t want to look back at all.”
Schildroth, the high-scoring Mr. Maine Basketball finalist, scored 20 of his game-high 27 points after intermission, including a blitz of 11 straight points that stretched George Stevens’ lead to double digits early in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a special player,” said Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow. “He’s a Mr. Basketball finalist for a reason.”
Mattson added 10 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and a constant defensive presence in the middle for the Eagles while Simmons came up with his biggest game of the postseason with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“The last three years, playing 22 games every year and finishing like this, it couldn’t be better,” said Simmons, who along with Schildroth and Mattson led GSA to a 64-2 record in that span.
The final win of that remarkable run capped off a senior season that began with a loss and then produced 21 consecutive victories, the last one coming against a Hall-Dale team that hung with George Stevens while Schildroth shot just 3-of-15 from the field as the Eagles clung to a 29-27 intermission lead.
Yet there was confidence in the GSA camp at halftime that those shooting struggles wouldn’t continue. And the most veteran of the Eagles were poised for a big second-half swan song in an effort to become the first Class C boys team to win three consecutive state championships since Falmouth in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
“You could tell the seniors wanted to get it done and they were going to get it done,” said George Stevens coach Dwayne Carter. “Then they went out and played so hard, and with the chemistry between them and the rest of the team and the coaches and this being the third time here, it made a big difference.”
Simmons scored nine third-quarter points to help George Stevens maintain a modest lead until Schildroth caught fire and buried three straight 3-pointers, beginning with a buzzer-beater that gave the Eagles a 48-38 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
By the time Schildroth added two more daggers from long range on GSA’s first two possessions of the final period, the Eagles’ lead had ballooned to 54-38 and the 6-foot-1 guard had tied the Class C state final single-game record with five trifectas.
“Obviously I wanted a better performance,” said Schildroth of his early struggles, “but I knew I couldn’t be less aggressive because that wouldn’t help my team. So I just tried to get in a better groove and I was fortunate enough to do that toward the end of the third and into the fourth.”
Hall-Dale continued to battle behind junior forward Ashtyn Abbott, who scored 11 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, but there would be no coming all the way back against a GSA team not only seeking a championship, but some history, too.
“We’ve been so fortunate to get here and win it three times,” said Schildroth. “I know it’s kind of selfish to want to ask for a win to end a career but that’s definitely how I wanted to go out and I definitely feel blessed to go out this way.”
Rebounding also played a significant role in the victory as George Stevens outboarded Hall-Dale 38-19, including 23-10 during the first half as Simmons, Mattson and junior forward Percy Zentz controlled the lane.
“My initial reaction is we gave up too many offensive rebounds, and that was really a primary focus entering the game,” said Ranslow.
Dean Jackman came off the bench to add 14 points for the 20-2 Bulldogs, but junior guard Alec Byron — who averaged 20 points during the C South tournament — was limited to nine by sophomore guard Caden Mattson, with three coming on a 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to play.
“We knew from watching the (South) tournament that Byron was their biggest offensive threat,” said Max Mattson, Caden’s older brother. “So Caden was going to ‘D’ him up and we didn’t think he was going to score that many points.”