JONESPORT, Maine — No doubt Garet Beal represents the heart of the Jonesport-Beals boys basketball team that has begun its quest for a second straight Class D state championship.
The 6-foot-5-senior forward scored 82 points in less than 24 hours this weekend alone, including 42 on Saturday afternoon as the Royals went to overtime before outlasting Deer Isle-Stonington 64-58 in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Maine Class D final.
But the key to ultimate success for coach Gordon Faulkingham’s club this season may rest elsewhere in the lineup, as was evidenced during the extra four-minute period when Vinal Crowley had two key blocked shots and Thomas Beal made four straight free throws to help Jonesport-Beals improve its record to 4-0.
“Vinal’s defensive presence is ridiculous,” said Garet Beal. “He gets a lot of blocked shots, and it’s not that he blocks shots but he’s smart with them. He gets tipped balls and he’s always rebounding them. It’s great to have that extra body under there.
“And Thomas made some very clutch free throws down the stretch. We really needed them and he made them.”
Garet Beal, who had scored 40 points during the Royals’ victory over Sumner of East Sullivan on Friday night, made 12 of 23 field-goal attempts — including 6 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc — and 12 of 13 free-throw tries against a Deer Isle-Stonington team that applied a box-and-one defensive approach against the University of Maine-bound standout, a first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year last season.
“We hadn’t seen it yet this year,” said Jonesport-Beals coach Gordon Faulkingham of the box-and-one tactics that featured Deer Isle-Stonington’s Tim Cormier guarding Beal. “But we had a walk-through (Saturday) morning and I told the kids I guarantee we’re going to see it. We worked on it and had Garet running off back screens a lot, but they still played tough defense on him. I told Garet he just had to shoot the ball.”
Beal’s three-point play on an inside move with 1:50 left in overtime gave Jonesport-Beals a 60-58 lead, then the 5-11 Crowley blocked a shot by Deer Isle-Stonington center Hayden Ciomei that set up Thomas Beal for two free throws with a minute remaining.
Beal made both to give the Royals a two-possession lead, and the senior guard calmly made two more from the line with 24.6 seconds left after Crowley redirected a 3-pointer by Deer Isle-Stonington standout Sam Grindle for his seventh blocked shot of the game.
“People don’t realize how quick Vinal is off his feet, and he’s got the quickest hands on the team,” said Faulkingham. “The block on Ciomei turned the game.”
Grindle, one of five senior starters for Deer Isle-Stonington, led the 2-1 Mariners with 22 points while backcourt mate Nathan Davis scored 15 points and Ciomei grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Overall I was happy with our effort,” said Deer Isle-Stonington coach Glenn Billings. “We had a little bit of a slow start, and a couple of times we had to come back against the defending state champion but we were able to do that and tie the game late and hit some big shots when they were presented.”
Garet Beal, who also contributed 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals during the contest, scored the first eight points of the second quarter to give Jonesport-Beals a 19-11 lead, and the Royals maintained a 30-25 edge at intermission.
Jonesport-Beals threatened to break the game open early in the second half, outscoring Deer Isle-Stonington 8-2 to take its largest lead at 38-27 on a Beal 3-pointer.
But Grindle brought the Mariners back by scoring 10 points in the period, with his three-point play and pass to Lucas Oliver for a layup in the final minute drawing Deer Isle-Stonington within 44-43 entering the fourth quarter.
Connor Morey then opened the final period with a layup that gave the Mariners a 45-44 lead — the first of seven lead changes during the remainder of regulation play, leading to a contested 3-pointer by Grindle with the game tied in the final seconds that missed.
“We knew they were a good team and I definitely think we can play with them,” said Garet Beal. “But it’s just one game and I’m sure it will be a different story when we play down there (in the regular-season finale on Feb. 8).
“It’s all about preparation. If we work hard in practice we can probably make it happen again, but there’s no telling what will happen.”