It hasn’t been an easy run to Friday night’s Class A North championship game for the top-ranked Hampden Academy boys basketball team.
First was a 57-54 escape of No. 8 Mt. Blue of Farmington, then came Wednesday night’s 54-52 semifinal survival of No. 5 Brewer.
Dominance? Not yet, but it’s the bottom line that counts for the 19-1 Broncos.
“We’re playing on Friday for a Northern Maine championship,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said. “We call it the hardware round at this point and we’re in that and we wanted to be here.
“I’m just happy we’re still playing no matter what our record is.”
Hampden faces No. 2 Cony of Augusta (16-4) for the third time this season in the 7:45 p.m. regional final.
The Broncos broke open a close game in the fourth quarter for a 79-62 win at Hampden last Dec. 16, then overcame foul trouble to Mr. Basketball semifinalist Bryce Lausier to edge Cony 81-76 at Augusta on Jan. 18.
Hampden’s challenge for a third win over coach T.J. Maines club is to cope with Cony’s full-court defensive pressure that is designed not just to create turnovers but to speed up the game’s pace. Cony forced 29 turnovers in its 77-52 semifinal win over No. 3 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro.
Might the additional length of the 94-foot Augusta Civic Center court — as opposed to the 84-foot courts at both Hampden and Cony — make a difference?
“A little bigger court should make it — I would hope — a little easier for us because they’ve got more room to cover,” Bartlett said. “But at the same point we’ve got to take care of the basketball and we need to make them cover in the halfcourt.
“A lot of times they speed you up so that doesn’t happen … If we can take quality shots when we break their pressure then hopefully we can be on the right end of the score, but we’ll see.”