Central Aroostook of Mars Hill used a variety of swarming presses and balanced scoring to rattle off 21 unanswered first-half points on Tuesday to post a 72-48 victory over Stearns of Millinocket in a Class C North boys basketball quarterfinal at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Top-seeded Central Aroostook (15-4) faces No. 4 George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (18-2) in Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal.
The ninth-seeded Minutemen (10-10) led 23-17 when the Panthers went on their run to take a 38-23 lead into the intermission. Stearns scored the first two baskets of the second half before Central Aroostook strung together an 11-1 spurt and the Minutemen couldn’t get closer than 15 the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Lucas Haines came off the bench to score all eight of his points in the 21-0 run, including two 3-pointers, and senior forward Brayden Bradbury added six of his game-high 22 points.
“Lucas has been a shooter for us all year. He provides a spark when we need it and we needed it tonight,” Central Aroostook coach Jason Woodworth said.
“My role is to come off the bench and give my team a boost if they need it,” Haines said. “The guys did a great job getting me the ball.”
The Panthers also did an excellent job forcing turnovers with their press, which led to several easy transition baskets.
“We started putting more pressure on the ball in the second quarter,” Woodworth said. “We really turned up the intensity on defense and it was a definite momentum-changer.”
Stearns coach Brandon McLauglin said Central Aroostook took advantage of his team’s inexperience.
“In the second quarter, we started throwing it to the other team. Our young guards were a little nervous and Central Aroostook is a quality ballclub,” McLaughlin said.
Bradbury had a game-high six steals, three assists and three rebounds to go with his 22 points. Joshua Thomas contributed 13 points, four steals and two rebounds. Joshua Dahl had five points, Jacob Carvel produced four points and five rebounds and Hayden Kingsbury grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to accompany three points and two steals.
Cole Kenyon and Bennett Dunstan led Stearns with 11 points apiece. Kenyon also had two steals, two rebounds and two blocked shots and Dunstan had three rebounds. Jacob Kowalski added nine points and five rebounds and Elliot Shearer chipped in with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.