BANGOR, Maine — The John Bapst Crusaders were in prime position for an upset early Friday evening, daring undefeated Presque Isle to beat them from the perimeter while frustrating the Wildcats with an occasional 3-pointer of their own.
The tactics were effective enough to leave the teams locked in a four-point struggle midway through the third quarter of their Class B boys basketball matchup — until Wilder York re-wrote the remaining script.
The 5-foot-7 senior guard scored 13 points during the final 10 minutes of play to go with a timely steal and a no-look pass for the game’s signature assist as Presque Isle persevered for a 50-38 victory at Newman Gymnasium on the campus of Husson University.
“We definitely needed to get something going,” said York, who finished the game with 16 points. “I was just trying my hardest to get the intensity up. We were feeling a little down, I think, but as a team we all pulled through.”
Tyler Brooks, a 6-5 junior forward, added game-high totals of 20 points and 15 rebounds as Presque Isle improved its record to 4-0 heading into next week’s trip to Hancock County for early-season showdowns against fellow unbeatens Ellsworth (Thursday) and Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor (Friday).
Brooks scored several of his 10 field goals on mid-range jumpers from both the baseline and near the free-throw line.
“Coach [Terry Cummings] knew I’d get more shots from the high post and that on the baseline it was harder to get shots off because of the defense, so he moved me out there,” said Brooks.
John Bapst used quick transition defense and a 2-3 zone to frustrate the taller Wildcats for much of the game.
Trailing 22-12 at intermission despite managing just four total rebounds, John Bapst closed to within 22-18 midway through the third quarter on an early 3-pointer by Peter Pfister and a second long-range shot by backcourt mate Josh Storgaard.
Presque Isle didn’t score its first basket of the half until Brooks converted a left-handed shot from the lane 4:18 into the third period, but John Bapst’s Sean O’Donnell answered with a basket off an offensive rebound to keep the Crusaders within four points.
Then York, who had made just one field goal to that point, connected on a 3-pointer from the key to extend Presque Isle’s lead to 27-20 and followed that with another, much deeper 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 30-22 lead entering the final period.
“If he’s going to make 3s, that makes them a really tough team because they have so many big guys inside,” said John Bapst coach Rick Sinclair. “Our strategy was to make them beat us from the perimeter, but York made some 3s in the second half — and one of them was from 22 or 23 feet. If they’re going to do that, then they’re going to be a tough, tough matchup for anybody.”
After O’Donnell took a feed from Adam Strang and connected on a 3-pointer of his own to pull John Bapst with 32-25, York hit yet another 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, to restore Presque Isle to a 10-point lead.
But while he was done from long distance, he was nowhere near done.
York converted two free throws after making a steal defensively on John Bapst’s next possession, and he later made a blind, behind-the-head pass to Brooks for a fast-break layup as Presque Isle finally gained full control, up 42-30 with 2:50 remaining.
“With Wilder being a three-year player and the only varsity player back from last year, if he wasn’t on the floor tonight we would have been in big trouble,” said Cummings. “He really stepped up. He hit some 3s, he made a great pass in the lane to Brooks, and he hit his foul shots. That’s what we’re looking for from him.”
Junior guard Jonah Stephenson added seven points for Presque Isle, while senior center Matt Eager had five points and eight rebounds.
Pfister led John Bapst with 13 points, while O’Donnell scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds.