BANGOR, Maine — The juggernaut George Stevens Academy boys basketball team got tested Saturday night, but its status as Class C North champion remains intact for a second straight year.
Junior guard Taylor Schildroth — sick with a fever measured at 101 degrees earlier in the day — scored a game-high 26 points and junior center Max Mattson flirted with a triple-double as the defending state champions fought off stubborn Fort Fairfield 59-45 in the regional final at the Cross Insurance Center.
“They came out and handed it to us for the first three quarters and stuck with us,” said Schildroth, “but I think our experience helped us pull away at the end.”
The undefeated and top-ranked Eagles (21-0) will face Winthrop for the state title here next Saturday night. Winthrop, also 21-0, defeated Madison 58-42 in the Class C South final.
Second-seeded Fort Fairfield finished its season at 19-2.
The 6-foot-6 Mattson finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and 12 blocked shots while anchoring a GSA defense that ultimately wore down Fort Fairfield as the Eagles closed out the contest with a 14-1 run over the game’s final six minutes.
“We got to the rim just how we wanted to but [Mattson] comes down the middle and he’s got long arms and gets up and comes out of nowhere, that definitely made a difference,” said Logan McLaughlin, Fort Fairfield’s 23-year-old, third-year head coach. “All the other games we played this year those layups all would have counted but he took away so many shots like that.
“It was the same way at the other end. We did a great job boxing out but he’s got such long arms he can jump right over the top and tip it back out and there’s nothing we could do about it.”
Yet Fort Fairfield, a school with just 118 students that plays more than half its regular-season schedule against Class D opponents, played fearlessly despite the imposing presence of Mattson and 6-foot-3 junior Jarrod Chase.
The Tigers battled GSA to a 24-24 halftime tie and a 39-39 stalemate heading into the fourth quarter behind the backcourt trio of seniors Chris Giberson and Ryan Player and junior Isaac Cyr, who combined for 31 points during the first three quarters.
“They were quicker and they were better shooters than I thought they were, they were very athletic,” said GSA coach Dwayne Carter. “It was a great challenge. That was the best team we’ve played all year.”
Fort Fairfield was still within 45-44 after a fast-break layup by Landen Kinney with 5:58 left in the game before George Stevens finally took control.
Junior forward Stefan Simmons scored once from the low post and again after grabbing an offensive rebound, and Chase also scored inside to push the GSA lead to 51-44.
After Giberson made 1 of 2 from the line with 4:06 left, Schildroth blocked a shot at one end and was fouled on a drive at the other end. He made both free throws to make it 53-45, and after Simmons scored again on the inside Schildroth closed out the contest with four straight free throws.
GSA went 14-for-15 from the line in the game.
Simmons added 11 points while Chase had 10 points and five blocks for the Eagles, who are now 42-1 over the last two seasons.
Cyr led Fort Fairfield with 14 points, while Giberson scored 10 and senior guard Ryan Player added eight.