BANGOR, Maine — Coming into the Class D North boys basketball tournament, prognosticators and fans alike were talking about Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook and Machias, the top two seeds with 17-1 records.
But third-ranked Easton is the reigning regional champion, and the Bears are just fine with flying under the radar.
Coach Manny Martinez’s club showed Saturday night that it won’t be giving their championship without a fight, as Easton dispatched a hardworking, sixth-ranked Wisdom of St. Agatha club 55-34 at the Cross Insurance Center.
The 13-6 Bears earned a date with the second-ranked Bulldogs in Thursday’s 2:05 semifinal against No. 2 Machias, which beat Bangor Christian 49-44 in Saturday’s other quarterfinal.
It was defense and rebounding that paved the way for Easton, as senior big man Jacob Flewelling posted a double-double with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
Flewelling also had nine offensive boards, and it was interior defensive play that helped the Bears hold the Pioneers to five first-half field goals in building a 23-11 halftime lead.
Easton led by as many as 23 in the second half, and even as the Bears were in cruise control, they played as though it was a close game.
“That’s been our motto since the start,” Flewelling said, “you’ve got to push it until the end.”
Jordan Doody was Easton’s other double-digit scorer with 15 points while Hunter Brown contributed eight points and seven rebounds, including four offensive boards.
While the scrappy Pioneers (8-9) kept battling throughout the contest, they just did not have the size to match up with Easton.
“They’re a bunch of competitors,” Flewelling said. “They definitely gave it their all and gave us a good game. We’ve played against them since middle school.”
Wisdom’s Jacob Guerrette held his own against the taller Bears, posting 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds while Kodey Cyr tallied 10 points.
Easton proved it is still a top contender in Class D North.
“We feel like we’ve come in a little bit under the radar, that’s something we’re going to go with,” said Flewelling.
The Bears used their tourney experience to build their lead as they scored the contest’s first seven points and held Wisdom without a basket until Guerrette’s layup just over five minutes into the game.
Wisdom made a game of it in the second quarter, getting as close as four on two occasions, but the Bears ended the first half on an 8-0 run, with Flewelling scoring five of those points, to build their halftime advantage.
Easton put it away with an 11-0 run to open the second half.