BANGOR, Maine — The future is bright for the Jonesport-Beals boys basketball program, but the future is now for Schenck of East Millinocket.
The top-ranked Wolverines withstood a challenge from the youthful Royals on Thursday afternoon and made 5 of 6 free throws in the final two minutes to secure a 52-50 victory in an Eastern Maine Class D semifinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
“We didn’t make many foul shots during the game,” said Schenck coach Steve LeVasseur. “We made 80 percent in the last game, and we barely made 50 percent [13 of 23] today. But I thought we stayed calm, and we hit the foul shots when we needed to hit the foul shots.”
Schenck (19-1) will face No. 3 Fort Fairfield (18-2) in Saturday morning’s regional final. No. 4 Jonesport-Beals, which started two sophomores and a freshman, finished at 16-4.
“We had some chances, but I thought from the foul line they were a little better than we were,” said Jonesport-Beals coach Vinnie MacLean. “Eight for 19 [including violations] is not very good shooting. It’s really been our Achilles heel all season long.”
Schenck built an 11-point first-half lead on the 3-point shooting of Eric Theriault, who made four of his five baskets from long range in the game before intermission, and a defense led by twin brother Brandon Theriault and Zach McLaughlin that forced 13 first-half turnovers.
“We were just pumped up,” said Brandon Theriault, “because in the first half the crowd was electric. We just had so much energy and we were just going at them.”
But it was Jonesport-Beals that amped up the energy in the second half, using a trapping defense to force seven third-quarter turnovers by the Wolverines while closing within 39-34 entering the final period.
The Royals forged a 41-41 tie when Tyler Turcotte fed Zachary Smith for a layup with 5:37 left, then took its first lead since 6-5 on two free throws by Smith with 5:23 left.
Jonesport-Beals took its final lead at 46-45 on an inside basket by Turcotte with 2:40 left, but Brandon Theriault scored on a drive to give Schenck a 47-46 edge with 1:54 to play.
While the Royals made just 1 of 4 free throws in the late going, Schenck got two free throws each from Terry McCafferty and Brandon Theriault to stretch its lead to 51-47 with 32.3 seconds remaining.
Sophomore guard Matt Alley hit a 3-pointer from the key to pull Jonesport-Beals within 51-50 with 19 seconds remaining.
Brandon Theriault then was fouled, and while he missed his first try, he made the second after a Jonesport-Beals timeout to give Schenck a 52-50 lead with 8.3 seconds left.
Jonesport-Beals had one final chance, but a 3-pointer from the left wing by freshman Garet Beal was contested by Schenck’s Jared Waite and came up short as time expired.
“We started playing sloppy on offense in the second half, and we were sluggish on defense,” said Brandon Theriault. “I think it was because we had the lead and felt too comfortable. But they’re a good team, and we had to push hard until the end, but we made some key foul shots to win the game.”
Eric Theriault finished with 15 points for Schenck, while Waite added 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. McCafferty came off the bench to score nine points for the Wolverines, while McLaughlin had eight points, 10 rebounds and three steals and Brandon Theriault had seven points, five steals and four assists.
Sophomore center Justin Alley had 13 points and eight rebounds for Jonesport-Beals, while Garet Beal scored 11 points and Turcotte had eight points and seven rebounds.