BANGOR, Maine — Caribou had no answers for Ellsworth junior Jackson Curtis throughout the first half.
But then the Eagles had an even more difficult time controlling the Vikings’ multi-faceted offensive attack in the second.
The result was Caribou’s 65-58 victory in the Class B North semifinal contest Wednesday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Center.
Ellsworth, behind Curtis, got off to a blistering start on the heels of losing the two regular season matchups by decisive scores of 70-56 and 83-51. Curtis hit a 15-footer on his team’s first possession, got position inside for a layup and then nailed a 3-pointer, all in the first 2:16 of the game to make it 7-0.
Although Caribou responded with seven unanswered points, five by senior captain Austin Findlen, the Vikings never were able to take the lead in the first half and went into intermission down 35-29.
“They had just come off a big win against MDI, so we expected them to come out like they did,” said Viking junior point guard Alex Bouchard. “They were playing with that momentum and it was tough for us on both ends of the floor.”
“It felt like they couldn’t miss in the first half,” said his teammate, junior forward Parker Deprey.
The Vikings finally went to work in the second half behind Deprey and Bouchard. Caribou outscored Ellsworth 22-7 as Deprey tallied seven points and Bouchard hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter to pull ahead by nine (51-42).
“Ellsworth seemed like they tired a bit and it felt like we attacked the hoop a lot more in the second half and I think we got those first-half jitters out of the way,” Deprey said, “plus Alex really stepped up big for us.”
Devin Grindle’s 3-pointer with 2:10 left pulled the Eagles within two points, but Bouchard converted driving layups on back-to-back possessions to stretch it back out. The Vikings hit 6 of 8 free throws over the final 2 1/2 minutes to hold off the upset-minded Eagles, which had eliminated Caribou in the 2016 semifinal round 42-40 in a game that went into overtime.
The No. 2 Vikings were led by Bouchard, who scored 22 points, 11 coming in the third quarter which saw Caribou turn a six-point halftime deficit into a 51-42 lead.
“I felt I was getting my way today,” Bouchard said. “I was able to make a quick move, get to the rim and finish easy shots.”
Three other Vikings were in double figures as Deprey had 18, Isaac Marker 14 and Findlen 10.
“We move the ball around quickly and we take a lot of shots and get a lot of good shots,” Bouchard added. “We were making them today, especially in the second half.”
Curtis paced the sixth-seeded Eagles with 24 points. He had 15 of those in the first half. Darby Barry tallied 12 and Hunter Curtis 10 for Ellsworth, which wrapped up its season with a 14-7 record.
Caribou (17-3) advances to the regional championship game on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. against Hermon, a 52-35 winner over Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield in the other Wednesday semifinal.