BANGOR, Maine — Schenck boys basketball coach Steve LeVasseur couldn’t help but shake his head and smile after watching his Wolverines defeat Fort Fairfield for the Eastern Maine Class D title Saturday.
The Wolverines of East Millinocket were outrebounded, had just one double-digit scorer, made less than 50 percent of their foul shots, and had two opposing players put up double-doubles against them.
“I wouldn’t have liked my chances if I’d known that ahead of time,” LeVasseur said while rolling his eyes.
Yet, there he was, accepting the first regional championship plaque won by a Schenck boys team since 1994 via the top-seeded Wolverines’ 51-42 victory over No. 3 Fort Fairfield at the Bangor Auditorium.
Now it’s on to the state final Saturday in Augusta against Western Maine champ Richmond for the 20-1 Wolverines, who won with defense.
“We’ve been tough on defense,” said senior forward Cody LeVasseur, Steve’s son. “The last four years, we always freak when it comes down to a close ballgame, but this team is probably the best team I’ve ever seen at keeping its composure when it gets down to it.”
After missing three straight 1-and-1s and watching a 41-31 lead with 6:48 left dwindle to 43-40 with three minutes to play, Schenck regrouped and took the ball inside against a tall Tigers team.
With both teams in the double bonus over the final two minutes, the result of that plan was six trips to the foul line for Schenck and one for Fort Fairfield. And while Schenck was hitting eight of 12 free throws in that span, the Tigers were 0-for-2.
Brandon Theriault led the charge late for Schenck with five points on 5-for-6 shooting from the line in the last 1:43.
“When it got close, I knew I had to start scoring,” said Theriault, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “Their guards weren’t overly quick, so coach told me to take it to the hole as much as I could and either get layups or get the ball to an open teammate.”
Theriault’s effort was crucial, given the absence of both 6-foot-3 center Terry McCafferty (nine points, six rebounds) and the 6-foot LeVasseur, who both fouled out, in the final two minutes. The duo drew the formidable task of slowing down 6-5 John McNamee, the Tigers’ star center, all game long.
McNamee finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks, but his 0-for-5 effort at the line was indicative of his team’s free-throw frustration. The Tigers hit just six of 16 foul shots in the game.
“It was foul shots overall, and second-chance shot opportunities for them in the first half,” said head coach Todd Alley, whose Tigers wind up 18-3. “We made a much better adjustment in the second half and my kids showed the heart, desire and ability to get there, but we needed to execute sooner.”
And take better care of the ball. After committing 12 turnovers in the first half, the Tigers had just four in the second.
“To have 12 turnovers at halftime against a team like Schenck, we were lucky to still be in the game, let alone within striking distance,” Alley said.
The Tigers trailed by just eight points at halftime.
“We’d get a six- to eight-point lead and then would do something stupid and let them get back into it, rather than get up on them and take over the game,” said Steve LeVasseur. “If we’d had made a higher percentage of our foul shots, it might not have been do dramatic at the end.”
Until the last two minutes, Schenck was 3-for-11 at the line.
“We shot 80 percent in the quarterfinal, and then somewhere around 52 percent in the semis. Today it seemed like we were at 22 percent,” Steve LeVasseur said with a sigh.
Travis Noyes led the Tigers with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
“A lot of people didn’t even think we’d get to the Bangor Auditorium this year, let alone play in this game, so after losing in quarterfinals last year and the semifinals the year before, this is a season to be very proud of,” said Alley.