BANGOR, Maine — A simple late-night drive last summer gave Machias boys basketball coach Jim Getchell an indication of how dedicated his Bulldogs were in preparation for what they hoped would be a special season.
“I went by Machias High School last summer one night at 1:30 in the morning and they’re all down there playing basketball,” Getchell said.
Summer commitment turned into February fulfillment on Saturday, as the Bulldogs stymied a high-powered Southern Aroostook club, holding the Warriors to nine second-half points in claiming their first regional title in more than two decades with a 43-31 Class D North championship win at the Cross Insurance Center.
The second-ranked Bulldogs (20-1) return to Bangor next Saturday to take on South champ Greenville for the state title. Machias’ last regional title came in 1995.
Greenville dealt Machias its only loss of the season, 49-47 on Jan 21 in Greenville.
Top-seeded Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook wraps up the season 19-2.
Leading by just two at halftime despite playing great defensively, the Bulldogs turned up the pressure in a big way against a Warriors’ club that had averaged 70 points per game during the regular season.
Led by the size of Jacob Godfrey, James Mersereau and Mark Anthony, the Bulldogs forced the Warriors into contested jump shots and Southern Aroostook finished the afternoon shooting just 13-for-54 (24 percent) from the floor.
Warriors swingman Nolan Altvater went 9-for-26 from the field and finished with 18 points, as Machias’ Camon Johnson harassed Altvater early and often.
“He’s been a great defender all year, he’s given us so much,” said Mersereau, who accumulated 20 points and nine rebounds.
The Bulldogs also contained Jackson Mathers, who scored six points on 2-for-12 shooting.
“We knew we had to shut down Mathers, that was the key,” said Mersereau.
Machias was able to break open what had been a 24-22 game early in the third quarter with an impressive 18-0 run stretching from the 2:01 mark of the third to the 3:38 mark of the fourth.
The Warriors were held without a field goal for more than nine minutes, as the Bulldogs used their combination of size and athleticism to wear down Southern Aroostook with quick dribble-penetration.
The normally high-octane Bulldogs also slowed their own attack down a bit to avoid getting into a second-half track meet with the Warriors.
“They shoot better when they’re in transition so we had to kind of slow the pace and make it a half-court game,” said Getchell.
That happened once the Bulldogs were able to get a double-digit lead.
“We came out and we pushed it to a point where we had that lead, slowed them up, go to me in the post and finish strong from the line,” Mersereau said.
Machias shot 11-for-14 from the foul line in the second half to dim all hopes of a Warrior comeback.
Along with Mersereau, Jacob Godfrey (seven rebounds) and John Massar (nine points, seven rebounds), the Bulldogs’ big men did a great job of controlling the backboards and the smaller Warriors found themselves in foul trouble as the game wore on.
“We wanted to use our size and dominate the glass,” said Getchell.
Altvater grabbed 10 rebounds and Jayden Burpee made three steals for the Warriors.