June 01, 2020
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Controversial buzzer-beater lifts Dexter to Class C North boys basketball title

Parker Ponte’s controversial 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired lifted undefeated Dexter past top-ranked Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 50-48 in the Class C North boys basketball final on Saturday night at the Cross Insurance Center.

Some video replays and still photos produced after the game suggested that the shot may have left Ponte’s shooting hand after the red lights on the backboard that indicate time had expired came on, but there is no provision for the use of replay in Maine high school basketball.

The National Federation of State High School Associations, which oversees interscholastic athletics around the country including Maine, provides for member states to use instant replay monitor for basketball during state championship series contests and only with 0:00 showing on the game clock at the end of regulation play or overtime, to determine whether a shot is a 2-pointer or 3-pointer or whether the shot was released before time expired.

In 2019, Arkansas became the 17th state to use replay at some level in state basketball tournaments, according to the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record.

Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia use replay only for state championship games, according to the Sentinel-Record

Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin use replay for state finals and semifinals, while Hawaii, New Mexico and North Dakota have replay for the finals, semifinals and early-round games, the Sentinel-Record reports.

The Maine Principals’ Association has not adopted an instant replay provision.

Trailing 48-47, Dexter gained possession of the ball after a Central Aroostook turnover and called time with 13.4 seconds left.

The Tigers then worked the ball into the frontcourt against considerable Central Aroostook defensive pressure before Nathan Richards passed to Ponte on the left wing behind the 3-point arc.

Ponte took one dribble before launching a jump shot that produced his only points of the game as the orange box light behind the backboard came on to indicate that time had expired and the final buzzer sounded.

“What we said in the timeout was that there was going to be a breakdown somewhere, just try to find a good shot and we did,” Dexter coach Peter Murray said.

After a brief discussion among game officials the shot was counted as originally ruled on the court and the game ended.

“They played tough defense, honestly, and I took one dribble and pulled up,” Ponte said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to count because it was so close to the buzzer, and that’s all that was going through my mind when it went in. Then my teammates tackled me and I knew it was going to be good.”

It was the second game-winner by the junior guard in as many nights, as Ponte’s 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left gave Dexter a 55-52 semifinal win over Fort Kent on Friday.

But as video and still pictures of the shot began to circulate around the arena immediately after the game doubt about whether Saturday night’s shot was released in time grew.

“I’m not sure if he got it off in time or not,” Central Aroostook coach Jason Woodworth said. “The referees said he did. I know there’s nothing we can do to change their mind. I guess we’ll never know.

“Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I felt like we did everything we wanted to, we stayed on our feet and forced a tough shot. He made a good shot, and that’s what it is.”

Dexter (21-0) advances to next Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. state final at the Augusta Civic Center against defending state champion Winthrop, which improved to 20-1 with a 39-30 victory Waynflete of Portland in the Class C South title game.

Junior forward Brett Kusnierz paced Dexter’s offense against Central Aroostook with 17 points and senior center Haedyn Guenther added nine.

Ethan Pryor led 16-5 Central Aroostook with 12 points and Josh Thomas added 10.

Dexter buried four 3-pointers — two by Brett Kusnierz and one each from Robbie Dorman and Will Kusnierz — during a 14-0 second-quarter run that propelled the Tigers to a 25-14 halftime lead.

Central Aroostook made just 5 of its 21 first-half shots and were 3 of 7 from the free-throw line.

The Panthers answered Dexter’s half-court man-to-man defense with trapping pressure in the third quarter, and the tactic produced nine Tiger turnovers as Central Aroostook rallied within 34-32 by the end of the period.

Central Aroostook finally grabbed the lead on a drive by Pryor with 2:47 left, and the Panthers added baskets by Stetson Nicholas and Thomas to extend their lead to 48-44 on a layup by Thomas with 1:50 to go.

Brett Kusnierz hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to draw Dexter back within a single point with 1:23 left.

“There’s a lot of things that happened tonight that I don’t have any control over and none of my players have any control over, and a lot of things that probably both sides would disagree with,” Murray said. “But at the end of the day you’ve got to live with the results whatever they are.”

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the final score for Central Aroostook.

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