There will be no early exit from the Class A North tournament for the Hampden Academy boys basketball team this year — but just barely.
The top-ranked Broncos, ousted in their postseason opener a year ago as the No. 2 seed, had nearly as much difficulty in its 2020 Augusta Civic Center debut Saturday night while outlasting eighth-rated Mt. Blue of Farmington 57-54 in the quarterfinals.
Senior guard Bryce Lausier scored eight of his game-high 23 points in the final eight minutes of play to help Hampden survive a fourth-quarter challenge when it trailed by a single point at one stage and never led by more than four points.
That came after the 18-1 Broncos trailed the 8-11 Cougars by eight at intermission.
“In the first half we came out flat and nervous, we weren’t getting good looks and we didn’t have a good starting point on offense,” Lausier said. “But in the second half we came out a lot more composed and stronger and that showed.”
Lausier also posted nine rebounds and seven assists, six in the second half, while Junior forward Brayden Cole added 17 points and senior forward Mikey Raye scored 12.
“I just stayed composed, brought the ball down a little further and looked to create a little more on my own in the second half,” Lausier said. “I knew driving and attacking would draw the defense so I could kick to the shooters.”
The win advances coach Russ Bartlett’s club to Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. semifinal against No. 5 Brewer (13-6).
Hunter Meeks paced Mt. Blue with 17 points while Camden Phillips scored 11 and Jacob Farnham finished with 10. Bradley Shamba grabbed 14 rebounds.
Hampden struggled throughout against a Mt. Blue team it beat by 45 points in their lone regular-season meeting at Farmington in January.
The Broncos moved out to a 16-11 lead early in the second quarter, but it was all Mt. Blue for the rest of the half. Meeks did much of the damage, scoring nine of his game-high 11 first-half points during the final six minutes before intermission when Mt. Blue outscored Hampden 17-4 to grab a stunning 28-20 lead.
Hampden came out of the break beginning to show the form that took it to the top of the Heal Points. Lausier made two quick 3-pointers and added an assist on a Raye 3-pointer as the Broncos went on an 11-2 run good for a 31-30 lead.
“The way we started the third quarter was key when we hit three consecutive 3-pointers, two from Bryce and one from Mikey,” Bartlett said. “The two seniors who have played a lot of tournament basketball showed their toughness in the second half.”
But Meeks and Co. weren’t finished. Meeks scored on steal-and-layup and after following in his own miss before Farnham buried a 3-pointer that gave Mt. Blue a sudden 37-31 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
Cole answered with five straight points thanks to two assists by Lausier, and a 3-pointer by Lausier with 27 seconds left in the period left the teams tied at 39-39 entering the game’s final eight minutes.