HERMON, Maine — Devin Peters had been a quiet offensive presence for the Lee Academy boys basketball team during the first 31 minutes of play against Hermon on Thursday night.
To that point it was backcourt mate Julian Diggs’ night, but with the Pandas needing a crunch-time boost the 5-foot-8-inch junior guard delivered a key three-point play and two additional free throws in the game’s final 43 seconds to help Class C Lee secure a 60-58 victory over the Class B Hawks.
Diggs finished with a career-high 31 points to help Lee gain its second win of the season over Hermon and improve its record to 10-4. Hermon falls to 6-7.
Lee took a 41-33 lead into the fourth quarter, but 3-pointers by Eric Hoogterp and Jacob Rioux helped rally Hermon within 43-41 less than three minutes into the final period.
The Hawks got to within one point on four different occasions, the final time at 53-52 on two free throws by junior guard Tyler Thayer with 1:11 remaining.
After each team took a timeout and nearly 20 seconds of playing time had elapsed Peters — who had scored just three points to that point of the contest — caught an inbounding pass along the left wing and sped directly to the basket, inducing a foul as he made a reverse layup and then adding the free throw to give Lee a 56-52 cushion with 42.4 seconds left.
“I received the pass from Julian and just took it right to the rack,” said Peters. “I got some contact and then I put it up and it fell.
“You’ve just got to stay calm and get the points.”
Peters’ opening came as Hermon focused its attention on Diggs.
“A couple of timeouts before that Hermon did a smart thing because Julian was kind of having his way so they were running a second man at him,” said Lee coach Randy Harris. “So I said whoever’s man is running at Julian you’ve got to make yourself open. It was Devin’s man that ran at him so Julian found him and there was enough of a crack for him to get to the lane and he’s quick enough that he got to the rim before they could stop him.”
Thayer banked in a runner to make it a two-point game with 31 seconds left, but Diggs countered with a Rajon Rondo-like high floater from about 12 feet out to restore Lee to a 58-54 edge with 14 seconds remaining.
“I got a quick feed from Jason (Wu) and I’m glad he found me,” said Diggs. “Nobody was in my way so I took it in and shot it. I actually practice that shot.”
Rioux again pulled Hermon within two points with two free throws, but Peters was sent back to the line with 7.9 seconds left and made two more free throws to give Lee a 60-56 edge.
Thayer added two from the line with 3.4 seconds left to pull Hermon within 60-58, and the Hawks nearly stole the subsequent inbounding pass only for it to deflect out of bounds off a Hawk’s hand.
Lee then inbounded the ball to Peters, who was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3.0 seconds left, but after Hermon’s Fritz Marseille rebounded the miss the Hawks were left with a desperation shot from just inside the midcourt stripe that came up short.
Diggs made 14 of his 28 field-goal attempts en route to his game-leading scoring performance , with much of that offense coming in transition.
“Usually coach stresses that every rebound should be ours,” said Diggs. “So on a rebound I just get it and go every time.”
Junior forward Cherif Fall worked the offensive backboards to score 11 points for Lee to help make up for the loss of 6-6 center Steven Ma, who suffered an ankle injury early in the game and did not return to action.
Thayer scored 12 of his team-high 22 points during the fourth quarter to help fuel the late Hermon comeback, while Hoogterp added 20 points — including five 3-pointers.
Rioux scored nine points for the Hawks, six during the final period.
“The three guards that they have are very good,” said Peters. “They’re all quick and they can all shoot.”