BANGOR, Maine — Friday afternoon was just another step toward the goal of a second straight state championship for the George Stevens Academy boys basketball team.
The top-ranked Eagles from Blue Hill looked every bit like a team favored to hoist another Class C gold ball, blitzing fifth-ranked Dexter 60-31 in a semifinal game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Unbeaten George Stevens (20-0) faces second-seeded Fort Fairfield (19-1) at 8:35 p.m. Saturday in its bid for a second consecutive regional title. The Tigers beat Schenck of East Millinocket in Friday’s first semifinal.
Dexter wraps up its season 15-6.
The Eagles’ blend of height and athleticism put the Tigers in a hole right from the opening tip. Taylor Schildroth’s NBA-range 3-pointer capped a game-starting 7-0 run that put Dexter out of its comfort zone right off the bat.
“We watched them play, they’re really well-coached. They’re all about slowing it down,” said Schildroth, who led all scorers with 29 points. “We came out and pressed and got a couple turnovers early. We just wanted to keep the pressure up.”
That’s what enabled coach Dwayne Carter’s Eagles to build a lead early and prevent Dexter from getting comfortable in its disciplined half-court offense.
George Stevens’ blend of full-court man-to-man pressure and a half-court zone trap forced the Tigers into making harried decisions with the ball, and the Eagles were able to take advantage.
The Eagles held Dexter to three first-half field goals in building a 28-10 halftime lead that included two dunks from junior big man Max Mattson (12 points, two blocked shots).
“Our bigs run the floor really well,” Schildroth said. “Max is 6-7 and he beats everyone down the floor.”
Mattson showed why he is one of the more athletic and versatile post players in the state, as he’d start George Stevens’ fast breaks often with his quickness and great floor vision.
“I’ve seen him get rebounds and then beat everybody up the court for a pass and a layup, so that’s an advantage,” Carter said.
It’s also an advantage to have depth, as the deeper Eagles wore down the Tigers and never let them get comfortable on the offensive end of the floor.
Dexter finished 13-for-39 from the floor.
“They run their motion offense really well, we needed to get out and force them into making some turnovers,” Carter said. “With our press that established it right off and it got us running.”
Schildroth contributed nicely to George Stevens’ defensive efforts with three steals while the Eagles shot a solid 24-for-57 from the floor, generating a lot of layups in transition.
“Once we start running, we start scoring,” Carter said.
Jacob Bickford and Brayden Miller paced Dexter with eight points apiece.