BANGOR, Maine — Based on the teams’ two regular season meetings, one would have expected the Old Town-Ellsworth Eastern Maine Class B semifinal basketball game to be a close one. Their two regular season matchups were decided by seven points and three points, with each winning at the other team’s gym.
That is exactly what occurred Wednesday afternoon as the sixth-seeded Coyotes took the lead for good with eight straight points after Nick Bagley’s game-opening 3-pointer and held off repeated challenges to nip the Eagles 53-50 at the Cross Insurance Center.
The sixth-seeded Coyotes, 16-5 and the winners of eight straight, will face 16-4 Caribou in the Eastern Maine Class B final at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The teams split their regular season meetings with each winning at home.
Old Town led by as much as 14 in the first half and 10 in the second half but the youthful and determined Eagles, behind senior Steve Mahon’s 17 second-half points, closed to within one with 3.7 seconds left before senior guard Garvey Melmed’s two free throws with three seconds remaining sewed up the victory.
“I had missed a free throw earlier and I don’t like missing free throws,” said Melmed. “The crowd was getting loud but I tried to block them out and sink them. I just focused on the rim.”
The Coyotes turned the ball over in the fourth quarter which aided the hard-charging Eagles but they always were able to answer with a basket or free throws.
Nick Cowen took a Melmed pass and converted a traditional three-point play off his layup to make it 49-43 with 1:10 left.
“It was a nice dish. I had so many different people [guarding] me, whenever there was a short guy on me, I took advantage of it. When I was open, I took it to the hoop,” said Cowen.
Two Bruce St. Peter free throws and a baseline runner by Mahon cut the lead to 50-47 with 15.6 seconds left but Melmed hit a free throw to make it a two-possession game.
Mahon’s long 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 51-50 with 3.7 seconds left but Melmed converted his free throws and Mahon’s desperation three fell short at the buzzer.
Mahon had just one point in the first half but he responded to coach Peter Austin’s pep talk in the second half.
“He told me this is your moment so go make it,” said Mahon.
Cowen and Mitchell Cole paced Old Town with 13 points apiece. Cole also grabbed five rebounds. Eric Hoogterp contributed 11 points, including an important three from long range to make it 45-38 with 4:35 remaining.
Hoogterp also grabbed six rebounds.
Melmed had eight points and five rebounds and he and Hoogterp each had two steals.
Adam Richardson chipped in with six points and six rebounds for the significantly taller Coyotes.
Mahon had six rebounds and two assists to go with his game-high 18 points for the 11-10 Eagles. Nick Bagley had 11 points and two assists. St. Peter had seven points and four rebounds and Griffin Nightingale wound up with three assists to go with his four points.