HOULTON, Maine — A dazzling 27-point effort from Houlton junior Keegan Gentle catapulted the No. 4 Houlton boys to an impressive 74-55 victory over No. 13 Lee Academy Thursday evening in a Class C North preliminary playoff.
Gentle poured in 10 points in the first quarter alone, including a perfect 4 for 4 from the foul line in that period as Houlton jumped to an early 24-12 lead and never looked back. Senior Nolan Porter chipped in 14 points, including four 3-pointers, while junior Cam Callnan added 13.
Willy Hsu led Lee Academy with 18 points. Hsu had to sit for much of the second quarter due to foul trouble.
Houlton and Lee also met last year in the prelims, only it was the Shires traveling to Lee for the prelim. The Shires won that contest 51-36 but were eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state champs George Stevens Academy, 55-43.
Tuesday’s quarterfinal round will be an opportunity for the Houlton squad, most of whom were on the team a season ago, to make up for that quarterfinal exit a year ago. The Shires face either No. 5 Penobscot Valley or No. 12 Piscataquis on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7:05 p.m.
“This feels crazy,” Porter said. “To be the higher seed, and get to wear our home jerseys and host a prelim, it’s awesome.”
Porter said he was feeling pretty good in Thursday night’s game and often found himself left all alone outside the 3-point arc, so he took advantage of the opportunity.
“They weren’t really guarding because it seemed like I had plenty of time,” Porter said.
Senior Nick Brewer said he was eager to return to Bangor to show Class C what the Shires are made of. “We have been playing on the same team for like nine years,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together, and they are really like family now.”
Houlton coach Tim Brewer said he was pleased with his squad’s defensive effort in the first half, but that effort waned a bit in the second half with his team up big.
“Our pressure was the difference in the first half, but it’s important for us to stay in attack mode,” Brewer said. “At times we get tentative, and we can’t do that down in Bangor if we want to be successful.”
Lee Academy ends its season with an 8-11 overall record.