The Easton Bears used a second-half surge to top third-ranked Van Buren 56-48 on Monday morning in a Class D North boys basketball quarterfinal at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The victory advances first-year coach Brad Trask’s sixth-seeded club (13-6) to Thursday’s 7 p.m. semifinal against No. 7 Deer Isle-Stonington, a 63-57 winner over defending regional champion and No. 2 seed Schenck of East Millinocket in the day’s second game.
Easton limited Van Buren (15-4) to 19 second-half points after trailing by three at intermission and made its last 10 free throws over the game’s final two minutes to put the game away.
Senior guard Matt Pangburn led Easton with 20 points and five assists while junior forward Austin Carver scored 14 points and junior guard Kooper Kinney added nine.
“He plays aggressive and he stepped up big,” Trask said. “He knocked down open shots when he had them but he didn’t force anything, he found other guys for open looks as well.”
Pangburn and Kinney combined to slow down a Van Buren fast break paced by 5-4 junior guard Isaiah Morales, who was held scoreless after hitting three 3-pointers during an 11-point first half and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
“He’s quick on the break,” Pangburn said of Morales. “We just made sure we had two guys back on a shot and tried to limit their transition, which we did.”
Sophomore forward Blake Martin and senior forward Luc Perreault added nine points each for Van Buren while freshman guard Henry Hebert scored eight.
Van Buren defeated Easton twice during the regular season, 45-33 at Van Buren on Dec. 18 and 63-54 at Easton on Jan. 16.
But Easton came out much stronger on the backboards after intermission, and that not only gave the Bears a few second chances but also limited Van Buren’s offensive opportunities.
Easton held Van Buren to just five third-quarter points, with two free throws and a 15-foot jumper by Pangburn late in the period giving the Bears a 35-34 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Kody Carter came off the bench to score three early points for the Bears to open the final period, and Owen Nicholson hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 7-0 run that gave Easton a 41-34 advantage with six minutes left.
Van Buren got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
“We just started boxing out, getting more aggressive on the boards and it turned into our game,” Pangburn said. “The momentum just changed, we were hitting open shots and grabbing boards.
“Everything was going our way and we just had fun.”