BANGOR, Maine — There is pressure that comes with playing in your first Eastern Maine basketball tournament game.
The Ellsworth Eagles withstood it on two fronts Friday night — handling Camden Hills’ 2-2-1 full-court press, along with the attendant nerves that accompany a postseason contest.
Freshman point guard Bryce Harmon scored 20 points, making 14 of 15 free throws, as No. 10 Ellsworth knocked off No. 2 Camden Hills 71-62 in an Eastern Maine Class B boys quarterfinal at the Cross Insurance Center.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but I took it as motivation and played hard,” Harmon said.
The Eagles (11-9) advance to take on No. 6 Old Town (15-5) in Wednesday’s 2:05 p.m. semifinal.
On Friday night, Ellsworth demonstrated poise while shaking off the Windjammers, who wound up 15-4.
“I think one of the turning points was that we could break their pressure without it bothering us,” said Ellsworth coach Peter Austin.
“I thought they played better once they gained some confidence,” he added.
Camden Hills pestered the Eagles with its pressure, which generated some first-half turnovers that led to points. However, Ellsworth was able to make the necessary adjustments, then briefly used its own 2-2-1 zone press to help spark a strong second half.
The Eagles trailed by as many as seven points in the third quarter, but eventually moved in front with an 8-0 run fueled by the press early in the fourth.
“I think it [the press] did surprise them there in the fourth,’ Austin said.
Steven Mahon kicked it off with a slick drive to the basket, then Bruce St. Peter cashed in on a Camden Hills turnover with a driving layup. Mahon made a steal that led to Griffin Nightingale’s fast-break layup, then two Harmon free throws gave Ellsworth a 50- 45 lead with 6:29 to play.
“Second half we moved a lot better, working from the middle,” Harmon said.
The Windjammers clawed back within a point at 50-49, but the Eagles were able to execute at the offensive end and close it out from the foul line.
Harmon helped Ellsworth maintain its collective composure, while sophomore Nick Bagley (5 rebounds) generated momentum with 19 points, including four 3-pointers.
“We call him ‘Mr. Clutch,’” Harmon said.
St. Peter, another sophomore, finished with 10 points. Nightingale chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, who went 24-for-33 from the foul line.
Chandler Crans paced Camden Hills with 16 points and four rebounds, while Jayson Kuhn provided 13 points. Connor Graffam posted six points and a game-high 16 rebounds, with Colin Morse and Terron Bailey adding eight points each.
The Windjammers outrebounded the Eagles 36-31.
“I did not think we could play any worse than we played tonight,” said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart.
“We were horrible. We weren’t together, we didn’t play ‘D’ and we didn’t rebound,” he added.
The Windjammers could not find the shooting range for most of the first half, but put together a 10-3 run over the last three minutes to take a 24-23 lead into the break.
Camden Hills was hampered by foul trouble to Morse, but Graffam helped pick up the offensive slack, scoring eight points in the second quarter.
The Eagles had some difficulty negotiating the Windjammers’ 2-2-1 full-court pressure, and committed eight turnovers in the half. Ellsworth hung tough behind Bagley, who made three 3-pointers during a 3 ½-minute span late in the half.
“It’s my favorite shot and people don’t guard me much out there, so I shoot it,” Bagley said.