The postgame celebration was a little more subdued Saturday after the Caribou boys basketball team defeated Ellsworth 62-40 for its second straight Class B North title than it was at the same point a year ago en route to ending a 50-year state championship drought.
Such are the emotional differences in being the favorite instead of the upstart..
“Beating a 42-0 Hermon team [in the regional final] like we did last year is tough to beat, especially coming in as the underdogs,” Vikings’ senior forward Parker Deprey said. “There’s a lot of expectations this year and I’m just hoping we’re meeting those.”
Few among the big afternoon crowd at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor could have left the arena after Caribou’s third win of the season over Ellsworth anything less than impressed with a team that has won 36 of its last 37 games over the last two seasons, including a 49-47 double-overtime victory over Cape Elizabeth in last year’s state final for the program’s first gold ball since 1969.
The top-ranked Vikings used their transition offense to build a 17-point halftime lead while the defense constantly made life tough for Ellsworth’s leading scorers, brothers Jackson and Hunter Curtis, who were limited to a combined 18 points on 7 of 22 shooting from the field.
“They’re a great team,” said Ellsworth coach Peter Austin, whose Eagles averaged just 43.7 points per game in its three chances against the Caribou defense. “They move the ball well. They shoot well. They really don’t have a lot of weaknesses.”
The victory advances coach Kyle Corrigan’s club, 20-1 this winter, to Friday’s 8:45 p.m. state final back at the Cross Center against Maranacook of Readfield. The top-ranked Black Bears (19-2) defeated No. 6 Wells 60-48 in Friday’s Class B South final in Portland.
No. 2 Ellsworth finished its season at 17-4.
“Our guys played well,” Corrigan said. “I’ve told the guys before that if we can execute on offense and lock down on defense we’re going to be just fine. I thought we played well both ways today.”
Deprey scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and added 12 rebounds to lead the way for Caribou.
The Mr. Basketball semifinalist was at his best during a two-minute stretch of the second quarter when he made three straight 3-pointers and added a fast-break layup off a feed from senior point guard Alex Bouchard for a personal 11 straight points during a 17-2 blitz that gave the Vikings a 35-14 lead with a minute left in the half.
“I haven’t shot well from three all year,” said Deprey, who totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone. “It’s been a mental thing, and then I’ve been able to get to the rim so I’ve used a lot of my energy on getting into the paint.
“But I realized today that they were sagging off me and giving me room to get off my [3-point] shot.”
Deprey’s younger brother, Sawyer Deprey, added 14 points and a stout defensive effort against Jackson Curtis, another Mr. Basketball semifinalist who finished with 11 and eight rebounds.
“We really pride ourselves on defense,” said Sawyer Deprey. “You can’t really win unless you get stops.
Isaac Marker chipped in 13 points for the Vikings, 11 in the second half.
J’Von James came off the bench to lead Ellsworth with 12 points, but the Eagles never got closer than 15 after intermission.