BANGOR, Maine — Expectation has become reality for the Hermon boys basketball team.
The top-ranked and undefeated Hawks, heavy preseason favorites to win the Class B North basketball championship, used stifling defense and a crisp shooting effort from the 3-point arc to live up to the hype Saturday with a 51-38 victory over Mount Desert Island in the regional final at the Cross Insurance Center.
“It feels great,” said sophomore forward Isaac Varney, who contributed 10 points and three blocked shots as Hermon won its first regional crown since 2000. “Hard work has definitely paid off so far this year. We’re not done yet. We’re still zero and zero, and we’ve got a big game left.
“The biggest game of the year is always the next one.”
That next game will come Friday night in Bangor when Hermon (21-0) faces Wells (15-6) for the state title at 8:35. Top-ranked Wells won the Class B South title for the second straight year with a 40-35 win over No. 2 Cape Elizabeth in Portland on Saturday afternoon.
Second-seeded MDI of Bar Harbor, which graduated nine seniors after defeating Wells in the 2017 Class B state final, ended its season at 17-4 — with three of the losses to Hermon.
That Hermon came up big defensively in the regional final should come as no surprise. The Hawks limited MDI to 35 and 33 points, respectively, in two regular-season meetings and allowed an average of 36 points in their first two tournament victories.
For most of the regional final it looked like MDI wouldn’t approach that average as Hermon limited the Trojans to seven field goals and 18 total points while building a 22-point lead through three periods.
“It’s the No. 1 thing we work on throughout practice,” said Hermon senior guard Keenan Marseille, who finished with six points and five assists. “We pride ourselves so much on defense and coach just pounds that into us. When you hold a team in the 30s you should win.”
That’s especially true when such defense is complemented by precision shooting, particularly from 3-point land where the Hawks made seven of their first 10 attempts.
“We shot the ball better from the perimeter tonight,” said Hermon coach Mark Reed, “and our defense at times was as close to as good as it’s been all year. (MDI) is good at driving the basketball, they do a lot of things defensively that keep you alert, but our kids really locked in and executed well.”
The long-range effort featured junior guards Cody Hawes and Garrett Trask, each with three 3-pointers to go with a seventh by reserve forward Joel Bergeron as Hermon built leads of 24-14 at halftime and 40-18 through three periods.
Hawes finished with a game-high 16 points while Trask scored 11.
“The past few days in practice we’ve put up a lot of shots and our numbers have been pretty good,” said Hawes, a junior guard. “Then to come out here and knock down shots today felt amazing.”
MDI did not go down quietly, led by its most veteran player in senior guard Andrew Phelps.
Phelps, who missed several games late in the season, was held scoreless through three quarters thanks in great part to Hawes’ man-to-man defense. He broke loose for his team-leading 10 points over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
Hermon extended its lead to 42-23 on a baseline drive by senior forward Jacob Godfrey with 3:22 to play before Phelps hit back-to-back 3-pointers and two free throws as the bulk of a 10-0 MDI run that cut the deficit to 42-33 on two Owen Mild free throws with 2:06 left.
But time ran out on the comeback as Varney and Trask each made two free throws to push Hermon’s lead back to 46-35. The Hawks ended the game making nine of their final 12 free throws.
“To make the run they did, we didn’t handle it well but you don’t have to be perfect even though sometimes as coaches you want to be,” said Reed.
“I’m proud of this team,” he added. “They’ve worked so hard.”
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