BANGOR, Maine — George Stevens Academy is most dangerous when it is able to get out and running.
The Eagles’ relentless defensive pressure enabled them to do that often on Friday night.
Top-seeded GSA of Blue Hill used a combination of trapping presses and gritty man-to-man halfcourt sets to force numerous turnovers that led to fast-break opportunities and carried the Eagles to a 76-53 Class C North boys basketball semifinal victory over No. 5 Fort Kent.
“If we’re playing good defense and it turns into a fast break, we can put up 10, 12, 13 points in a hurry, so it’s a good style of play,” said senior guard Taylor Schildroth, who poured in a game-high 30 points to help catapult the defending state champions (20-1) back into the regional title game, where the Eagles will face No. 2 Fort Fairfield at 8:35 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Dwayne Carter’s quick-striking GSA ballclub used a decisive run in the second quarter and a clincher in the fourth quarter to shake off a determined effort by Fort Kent, which wound up 16-5.
Stefan Simmons (seven rebounds) and Max Mattson (seven rebounds, five blocked shots) complemented Mattson’s offensive output with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Eagles also received strong efforts from Caden Mattson, Percy Zentz (five points, six rebounds) and Reece Dannenberg (seven points).
“It’s definitely hard to guard us, because we’ve got so many guys that can shoot,” Schildroth said. “Max down low, Stefan and Percy can go to work in the post. We have shooters everywhere, so it definitely spreads it out.”
Camden Jandreau led Fort Kent with 13 points, Jacob Daigle registered 12 points and eight rebounds, Caleb Delisle netted 10 points and Jace Rocheleau tallied nine points.
Even though GSA had some turnover issues of its own (17) while trying to force the tempo at the offensive end, the Eagles’ efforts helped generate 21 turnovers by the Warriors.
“Our defense really suffocates them,” Schildroth said.
The Eagles led by only 12 points after three quarters, but opened the fourth period with a 12-2 surge that included five points from Simmons and made it a 63-41 contest with 5:18 to play.
The Warriors held their own nicely in the first quarter and emerged with a 12-11 lead. But the Eagles turned up the defensive intensity in the second period.
GSA employed 2-2-1 and 1-3-1 three-quarter-court presses that forced Fort Kent out of its comfort zone. The result was nine turnovers in the quarter — among 13 in the half — that helped fuel a surge by the Eagles.
GSA scored 15 points as the direct result of those miscues, capitalizing on their quick-striking transition offense. Schildroth was the catalyst as he drained three 3-pointers among 11 points in the quarter to help the Eagles build a 34-23 halftime lead.
Fort Kent led 14-11 after a 14-foot pull-up jumper in transition by Caleb Delisle, but GSA went on a tear, churning out a 15-2 scoring run that gave it a 27-16 lead at the 3:21 mark. Schildroth drained all three of his 3-pointers quickly after Warrior turnovers during the decisive burst.
Max Mattson was aggressive around the basket and scored 10 points in the half, including a one-handed slam of a missed runner by Schildroth during the final minute of the first quarter.