BANGOR, Maine — After the Camden Hills of Rockport boys basketball team suffered two narrow losses this winter, some who follow Eastern Maine high school basketball closely suggested some vulnerability within the reigning Class B state champions.
It turned out to be just some wishful thinking among those hoping to dethrone the Windjammers.
Camden Hills used stifling defense and rebounding dominance to build an astounding 43-10 second-quarter lead Saturday en route to an 82-49 victory over Ellsworth that secured the program’s eighth regional championship in the last 13 years.
“That’s a very, very, very good team, that’s all I can say,” said Ellsworth coach Peter Austin.
The win advances the top-ranked Windjammers (19-2) to next Friday night’s state final against Western B champion Falmouth, also to be played at the Bangor Auditorium. Falmouth defeated Greely of Cumberland Center 53-40 in its regional final.
Second-seeded Ellsworth ended its season at 17-4.
Point guard James Weferling set the early defensive tone for Camden Hills, harassing Ellsworth’s guards into eight first-quarter turnovers, and the Windjammers outrebounded the Eagles 17-4 while building a 27-6 by the end of the opening period.
Things only got better for Camden Hills, which scored 14 unanswered points early in the second quarter to take a stunning 33-point lead on a 3-pointer by Zack Wincklhofer with still 4:17 left until intermission.
“Honestly I don’t think in my three years at Camden Hills we’ve ever gotten off to a better start,” said junior center Tyler McFarland, who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds while helping the Windjammers amass a 52-26 advantage on the backboards for the game.
“It was all defense and rebounding. We executed our defense well, we put the pressure on and we dominated the boards. If you dominate the boards and limit teams to one shot per possession, you’re going to come away with a win.”
McFarland, a second-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice last year who was the only returning starter from Camden Hills’ undefeated 2009 team, also played a key defensive role against Ellsworth star Ryan Petros.
Petros, who led the Big East Conference in scoring during the regular season and averaged 30 points in the Eagles’ previous two tourney games, managed just nine points on 3 of 14 shooting from the field, primarily while being guarded by the 6-foot-6 McFarland.
“As soon as our [semifinal] ended the other night I decided he was going to guard Petros,” said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart. “People look at him as being 6-6 and able to play inside, but he’s our best player, he’s our best athlete, he can guard anybody. He’s just so versatile he’s pretty special, and I thought he got into Petros’ head right off the bat.”
Camden Hills got much of its offense on the interior, where McFarland and 6-6 frontcourt mates Keegan Pieri and Casey Scott overwhelmed an Ellsworth lineup with just one starter taller than 6-1.
And when the Eagles tried to collapse their defense to help against the Windjammers’ big men, that created more room for Camden Hills’ perimeter shooters, particularly junior guard Joel Gabriele, who came off the bench to contribute 14 points, 12 on 4 of 8 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc
“That’s what I do on this team,” said Gabriele. “We’ve got plenty of slashers, and with T-Mac down low and Keegs down low we’ve got a lot of height, so around the perimeter I just try to take advantage of open shots and that’s what I did today.”
Pieri added eight points and seven rebounds for the Windjammers, while Weferling added eight rebounds to his defensive leadership.
Junior forward Andrew Austin led Ellsworth with 10 points.
“It’s definitely one of our better games,” said McFarland. “But honestly, we still had periods of time when we were slacking a bit.
“We can play better than that. We’re capable of doing some great things.”