BANGOR, Maine — Lee Academy boys basketball coach Randy Harris breathed a sigh of relief before preparing for overtime. Calais junior guard Andre Paul’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the backboard and the front of the rim before falling out.
“I had a good look at it. It looked good to me,” said Harris, whose Pandas parlayed a three-pointer from Jay Chen to break a 54-54 tie in overtime and clutch free throws from Devin and Kyler Peters to beat Calais 61-57 in an Eastern Maine Class C semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center Friday afternoon.
The third-seeded Pandas, 17-3, will take on 20-0 top seed Houlton in Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. championship. Houlton beat Penquis of Milo 60-44 in the later semi.
Calais, which had beaten Lee twice during the regular season, finished at 16-4.
Tyler Niles sank two free throws for Calais to open the overtime but Blue Devil standout Kyle Johnson fouled out on an offensive foul off the ball with 3:01 remaining and Calais struggled without him.
Johnson tallied 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals and his 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.7 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime.
Devin Peters tied the game with 2:31 left in overtime when he sank a 10-foot jumper off a Frank Tsoungui pass and, after a Calais miss, Chen grabbed the defensive rebound and eventually rotated to the left corner, where he nailed a wide open 3-pointer off a Lewis Wang pass.
“We moved the ball well. It felt good when I shot it,” said Chen.
“Jay is probably our best 3-point shooter,” said Harris.
Cordell Hold’s free throws closed Lee’s lead to 57-56 with 57.7 seconds left but Devin Peters sank a pair of free throws with 56 seconds left and, 19 seconds later, Kyler Peters converted a pair to make it 61-56 and all but cement the triumph.
“We shoot at least 20 free throws apiece before practice and I think we wind up shooting 40-50 every day,” said Devin Peters.
“It paid off today,” said Harris.
Harris, Devin Peters and Calais coach Ed Leeman all said Johnson’s absence was one of the deciding factors.
“He’s a great player,” said Peters.
“He’s our go-to guy. He’s our engine. It really hurt us. I didn’t like the call [the foul on Johnson]. But the team played great. They hung in there and persevered. We still had a chance but it didn’t happen for us tonight,” said Leeman.
Lee built a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter but the resilient Blue Devils outscored the Pandas 12-5 over the final 5:50 behind Johnson’s seven points and assist.
“They’re a tough team,” said Devin Peters. “They’re going to come back. They’re going to battle. They’re a very disciplined team. Coach Leeman is a great coach.”
“They beat us two times and we said this time they can’t beat us,” said Lee Academy senior forward Frank Tsoungui, who had 13 points, four rebounds and three steals. “We worked hard and everybody contributed.”
Cherif Fall paced the Pandas with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Chen had 15 points and four rebounds. Wang wound up with seven points, four assists and three rebounds.
Johnson’s 13 points paced a balanced Calais attack.
Niles wound up with 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Nathan Newell had 12 points and two assists; Hold had nine points and three rebounds and Paul had nine points for Calais.
Harris said two of the important ingredients were his team’s depth and balance.
“We’re nine or 10 deep and Calais plays seven,” said Harris. “And we don’t have anyone averaging over 13 points. All 14 of our players have the green light to shoot threes.”