AUGUSTA, Maine — They had waited 64 years to celebrate a state championship, but the wait didn’t stop there for the Greenville High School boys basketball program and its supporters.
Not until Gavin Gardner’s last-second 3-pointer from the right corner bounced off the rim and into the hands of Lakers’ center Devin Boone could they first take the deepest of breaths before exploding with joy late Saturday afternoon as Greenville escaped with a 47-46 victory over Woodland in the Class D state final at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I was closing out on the kid shooting,” Greenville senior forward Evan Bjork said. “I almost had a heart attack, I’m not going to lie. It was pretty scary, but when I saw Devin get that rebound at the end of the game I knew we won.
“This is insane. It hasn’t quite sunk it yet but I can’t believe it.”
The championship is the first since 1954 for Greenville, which lost to Machias in last year’s state contest and dropped its first two regular-season outings this winter before winning its final 20 games.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for since we walked off the court after the state championship game last year,” said Lakers’ senior guard Nick Foley, who contributed 14 points and six assists to the victory. “We didn’t want to ever have that feeling again.”
Woodland, seeking its first gold ball since 2009, finished 18-4.
“We had our chances,” Dragons’ coach Ben Maloney said, “but credit [Greenville], they’re all seniors and they were in this position last year and took advantage of it this year.”
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Greenville never trailed after jumping out to an 11-0 lead but was required to nurse that advantage to the very end as Woodland countered the Lakers’ size advantage with a willingness to push the pace whenever possible.
But while the Dragons never let Greenville pull away, they could never quite complete the comeback.
“We gave up some shots that we could have avoided but we didn’t panic,” Greenville coach Bill Foley said. “The kids did not panic.”
Woodland ultimately crept within two points late in the third quarter and then pulled within one when junior point guard Drew Hayward banked in a straightaway 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key to make it 47-46 with 23.6 seconds left in the game.
The Dragons then got the ball back on a steal, but a contested drive by Hayward came up short and Woodland was forced to foul, sending Nick Foley to the line with 7.3 seconds to go.
Foley missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving Woodland one final chance.
Hayward came up with the loose-ball rebound and quickly dribbled down court before spotting Gardner alone for an open try from deep in the right corner with time running down.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself for missing that last free throw,” Foley said. “When they had that open look my heart stopped. I was under the basket and from my spot it looked like it was going in. It looked good, but I can be thankful. It seemed like it took an eternity for it to get there.”
The 6-foot-4 Boone finished with game-high totals of 15 points and eight rebounds for Greenville while Bjork added 12 points on four 3-pointers — including two in a row after Woodland twice pulled within two points midway through the third quarter.
“Our game plan was to try to take Foley away but Bjork stepped up and made a couple of huge threes at the right time when we were making little runs, and Boone down low gave us problems because he’s so big and athletic for a big,” said Maloney.
Hayward, who missed much of the first half with foul trouble, finished with 13 points and five assists while Justin Worden, Woodland’s lone senior starter, had 10 points and seven rebounds.
“We had two chances at the end, one nice drive to the rim that didn’t fall and then that last shot,” said Maloney. “You just look to penetrate middle and if they come you kick it out and hope for the best. It didn’t fall this time, and hopefully for that junior group it will make them work harder to try and get back here next year.”
For Greenville, that next year is now.
“Before the game some members of the 1954 team, the last team from Greenville to win a state championship, gave us a talk about how it’s going to be something that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives, and it’s just that,” Nick Foley said. “This means so much to ourselves and the community. It’s something to be proud of together.”
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