BANGOR, Maine — The Houlton Shiretowners overcame foul trouble by their leading scorer and relied on a relentless man-to-man defense to force numerous turnovers and poor shooting Friday afternoon to triumph over Sumner of East Sullivan 60-34 in the Class C North semifinals at the Cross Insurance Center.
Houlton is 17-4 entering Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. regional title game against three-time defending state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill. The Shires lost to the Eagles in the quarterfinal round a year ago.
“We can sit here and try to figure this game out all we want, but really Houlton is just simply a really good basketball team,” Sumner head coach Dana Smith said. “Our kids battled, but Houlton is well coached and was the better team and I think it’s going to be a heckuva final.”
Junior guard Keegan Gentle, Houlton’s top scorer throughout the season, had nine points to his credit before picking up his second foul with 6:36 left in the second quarter. He was relegated to the bench with his team leading by 12 points, but the Shire offense didn’t miss a beat in his absence.
Houlton outscored the Tigers 17-9 the rest of the half to go into intermission up 34-14. Gentle’s teammates all contributed and in fact, the other four starters finished with between eight and 12 points.
The Tigers were unable to get closer the rest of the way as reserves for both teams were on the court for the final four minutes.
Gentle, who only ended up playing 18 minutes due to the foul trouble, still ended up with a team-high 13 points. Cameron Callnan, who played stellar defense on Sumner’s 6-5 junior center Simon Torrey, tossed in 12 points. Jaron Gentle hit a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers and also had 12 points.
“We still have people who can score the ball even with Keegan out,” said Houlton senior forward Nick Brewer. “It takes a lot of pressure off as we can’t rely on one person to score all our points.”
Sumner’s leading scorers were held in check throughout as Torrey only hit two field goals and netted just seven points, and 1,000-point career scorer Colby McLean was limited to two field goals and six points. The Tigers, who upset No. 1 Central Aroostook Tuesday for their first tournament win in eight years, ended up 13-8.
The Shires scored the first seven points of the game and forced eight turnovers thanks to a man-to-man defense that flustered the Tigers from the start. Sumner missed its first six attempts and finished 6 for 21 in the first half.
“We wanted to make them rush and get them in a stressful situation,” said Brewer, who finished with eight points and guarded McLean effectively throughout. “We played good defense and played good helpside defense on their bigs, and we pulled through.”
Nolan Porter, the team’s only other senior, also contributed eight points for the Shires, including the last six of the first half.