Defending Class AA state champion Bangor took the first step toward a possible berth in the title game on Wednesday with a 79-55 quarterfinal victory over Oxford Hills of South Paris at Red Barry Gymnasium in Bangor.
The second-seeded Rams (16-3) move on to a 3:30 p.m. semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland against the winner of Wednesday’s prelim between No. 3 Deering and No. 6 Cheverus.
Seventh seed Oxford Hills finished the season with a 4-15 record.
Senior center Sam Martin led coach Brad Libby’s Bangor club with game-high totals of 30 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots along with three assists.
The Rams’ big man capitalized on setup work by his teammates — Bangor had 17 assists on its 29 baskets — to shoot 12 of 18 from the field.
“The guards do a great job of getting me the ball, and I know I can always rely on kicking out to them,” Martin said. “They’re great shooters, just a great bunch of guys.”
Senior forward Henry Westrich scored 25 points — including five 3-pointers — for Bangor while junior forward Andrew Szwez added 16 points and 14 boards.
The Rams also got five assists apiece from senior guard Parker Noyes and sophomore guard Max Clark.
“We’re all unselfish,” Martin said. “We know if we’re going to get this championship we have to be unselfish and pass up a good look for an even better look.
“We feel like we’ve been doing that all season, and I felt like we did a good job of that tonight.”
Junior forward Colby Huckins paced Oxford Hills with 19 points, 13 during the third quarter, to keep the Vikings close.
Senior forward Tanner Herrick added 10 points for coach Scott Graffam’s Vikings.
Martin scored 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the first quarter as Bangor built a 23-15 lead.
The Rams began the contest looking to get the ball inside to the 6-8 center, and a young Oxford Hills team had no answer early in the contest, especially with Westrich and Szwez adding five points each in the opening period.
Oxford Hills adjusted defensively with some success during the second quarter as the Vikings were more effective in limiting Martin’s low-post touches.
The Vikings drew as close as 29-22 on two free throws by Huckins with 1:09 left in the second quarter, but Libby re-inserted Westrich — who had sat momentarily after drawing his second foul — into the lineup and he buried a 3-pointer and a fast-break basket on back-to-back possessions to give the Rams a 34-22 halftime cushion.
“Henry has the IQ where I can trust him on the floor with two fouls,” Libby said. “He’s smart enough, you saw him coming on a breakaway and he pulled up because you never know if it’s going to be an offensive charge or a block. He’s smart enough to pull up and take the jumper rather than testing what the referee is going to call.
Oxford Hills hung around for much of the second half, pulling to within 53-46 on a runner by Huckins with 7:05 left in the game.
But again Westrich sparked a run that enabled Bangor to regain control, combining a drive and a 3-pointer with an inside basket and two free throws by Martin that gave the Rams a 62-47 cushion with six minutes left.
“The team knows when we need a basket we want to go through Henry,” Libby said. “He’s smart enough to either go to the hole or get it inside.”