AUGUSTA — Josiah Hartley spent Monday evening in a hospital emergency room, getting intravenous fluids to fight off dehydration.
Hartley spent Tuesday night at the Augusta Civic Center, leading Bangor High School to the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball championship.
Hartley, the Rams’ 6-foot-5 senior center, got off his sick bed to score a team-high 13 points and spearhead a defensive effort that shut down Edward Little star Bo Leary as Bangor edged the Red Eddies 41-38 to win its first regional title since 2008.
“I’ve been home in bed resting for the last two days, and [Monday] night I spent in the ER getting pumped with IVs because I had lost 13 pounds,” said Hartley. “Today I didn’t feel good at all, pretty brutal actually, but the adrenaline turned on and I just put everything behind me.”
The win advances coach Roger Reed’s club to Saturday’s 7 p.m. state final at Augusta against undefeated Cheverus of Portland. Cheverus, the defending state champion, edged Bonny Eagle of Standish 30-27 in Monday’s Western A final.
Edward Little, the two-time defending EM champion, ends its season with a 19-2 record.
“This game was extremely tough,” said Bangor senior guard Tristan Thomas. “It came down to defense and rebounding and boxing out. We had to be mentally tough, physically tough and emotionally tough.”
Hartley, who missed school Monday and likely wouldn’t have been able to play that night had the game not been rescheduled for a second time due to inclement weather, made 6 of 12 field-goal attempts while limiting Leary — who averaged 23 points per game during the regular season and 22.5 ppg in EL’s first two tourney wins — to 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Just two of Leary’s baskets came after the first quarter, both on offensive rebounds.
“Our inside presence against Bo Leary held him in check most of the night, and Josiah was on him most of the time,” said Reed. “I didn’t know exactly what we were going to get from Josiah because he was sick Saturday when we last practiced. We didn’t know how far we would be able to go with him and we had a contingency plan, but he did a good job.”
Senior forward Zach Blodgett added 11 points for Bangor, while Thomas added seven points and three steals and point guard Luke Hetterman had six points and three assists.
Tim Mains, presented the Al Halliday Award as the Eastern A tourney’s outstanding player-sportsman, added eight points for EL, while Brandon Giguere had eight points and matched Leary’s game-high 10 rebounds.
Easy baskets were a wish rather than a reality for both teams during a hard-fought contest in which neither team led by more than five points. Nor did either team reach the one-and-one in either half, much to EL coach Mike Adams’ chagrin.
“There’s a big uproar about certain officials and how much they call and what they don’t call,” said Adams, “but you’re doing just as big of a disservice to kids if you don’t call anything and now you allow pure brute strength and size to win out against a lot of skill.
“I’m not saying Bangor has just brute size and strength, they have a great basketball team, but I don’t know if we had a fair shot in the second half to do some things we wanted to do.”
Yet it was Edward Little that dominated the backboards for much of the game, outrebounding Bangor 26-15 through three quarters before the Rams finally got some key rebounds of their own.
Trailing 33-29 early in the fourth quarter, junior forward Patrick Stewart twice scored on putbacks as part of an 8-0 Bangor run that gave the Rams a 37-33 lead with three minutes remaining.
EL countered with a 3-pointer and a top-of-the-key jumper by Mains to regain a 38-37 edge with 2:15 left.
The Red Eddies then tried to work the clock, but with Bangor having just one team foul the Rams could be overly aggressive and eventually forced an errant pass from Leary that led to a go-ahead inside basket by Blodgett with 57 seconds left.
EL’s 16th turnover of the game soon gave Bangor the ball again, and this time Stewart rifled a perfect inbounding pass from the left side of backcourt ahead to Blodgett, whose layup gave Bangor a three-point lead with 13 seconds left.
“Originally we were supposed to get it to Luke but he was denied,” said Stewart, who finished with a team-high six rebounds despite sitting out most of the first half with two fouls. “Tristan also was denied so I was going to have to call timeout, but then I saw Zach streaking down the court so I might as well get it to him so we’d have a three-point lead and then just go play defense.”
Stewart then tipped away a 3-point shot by Mains in the final seconds.
“This was a very, very tough game to find room to operate,” said Reed. “Everybody was hedging hard, everybody was stopping penetration, everyone was closing out hard. Both teams played hard, it was just a case of who was going to be ahead when the buzzer went off.”