BANGOR, Maine — Having not faced one another during the regular season, neither squad really knew what to expect during Tuesday night’s Class C North quarterfinal between No. 4 Houlton and No. 5 Penobscot Valley of Howland.
Houlton (15-4) quickly set the tone against the Howlers, bolting to a 7-2 lead in the opening moments and never looking back as the Shires cruised to a lopsided 72-32 victory.
Houlton faces the winner of the game between No. 1 Central Aroostook and No. 8 Sumner at 3:35 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
Nolan Porter paced the Shires with 22 points, including four 3-pointers, while Nick Brewer chipped in 16 and Keegan Gentle added 13. Elijah Wood was the top Howler scorer with 12 points.
The Shires played at a feverish pace in the first half, thanks to stellar perimeter shooting from Porter (10 of the team’s 17 first-quarter points) helping Houlton build a 30-12 lead at the half. The question was, could the Shires sustain such a frantic pace?
The answer was a resounding “Yes” as Houlton expanded its lead to 48-22 after three stanzas and was able to extend it further in the final frame with most of the bench seeing time.
“I think they (Houlton) hit every single midrange shot that they took,” said PVHS coach Jeromy Durost. “We got into a hole and against a team like that it’s hard to come back. They are just fundamentally sound.”
Houlton coach Tim Brewer said the game plan going into Tuesday’s contest was to press early and often, in the hopes of creating some turnovers off that pressure. The team did precisely that, seizing a 10-3 lead in the opening minutes thanks largely to Porter, who scored the first seven points of the game for the Shires.
“I was feeling it for sure,” Porter admitted. “I decided if I was open I was going to nail it.”
“We had to play to our strengths tonight,” Keegan Gentle said. “We hoped if we put a little bit of pressure on them, they might get wild and take some bad shots.
“The difference in this game was our defense,” coach Brewer said. “My key was I wanted to get up and put some pressure on them early because I thought we might have some nervous energy and I wanted to use it up.”
The win was the first in the Cross Insurance Center for coach Brewer. The Shires lost to eventual state champ George Stevens Academy in the quarterfinals a year ago.