The Eastern Maine boys basketball tournament had it all in 2013 — buzzer-beating shots, dramatic comebacks, overtime thrillers, coaching and player milestones, senior leadership and talented underclassmen.
All are reflected in the annual Bangor Daily News all-tournament teams.
The BDN selected the squads with input from school administrators, media representatives, former coaches, Maine Principals’ Association officials and other dedicated observers.
Headlining this year’s teams are the William Warner Award honorees as tournament most valuable players, Zach Gilpin of Hampden Academy, John Murray of Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Isaiah Bess of Penquis of Milo, and Steven Decker of Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
The MVP award was established in 1994 in memory of Warner, a former BDN sports reporter and editor. Five players were selected to the all-tourney team for each class.
In CLASS A, Zach Gilpin led a balanced Hampden Academy team to its second straight Eastern Maine championship.
He was a double-figure scorer in each of the undefeated Broncos’ regional tournament games, including 13 points in the final against Lawrence of Fairfield.
Yet his most important postseason play was not a shot but a pass after he grabbed a rebound with four seconds left in the EM final. Hampden trailed by a point when Gilpin gained possession, and when he soon was double-teamed, he spotted his younger brother, freshman Nick Gilpin, open just beyond midcourt. Nick Gilpin caught the ensuing pass, turned and launched a runner that went in as time expired to give the Broncos the 40-39 victory.
Spencer Carey was a two-way standout who led Lawrence to the brink of a regional title during Mike McGee’s 28th and final season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Bound for the University of Maine on a football scholarship this fall, Carey made the most of his basketball swan song with a game-high 18 points and a strong defensive effort in the EM final.
Xavier Lewis returned from a bout of mononucleosis to be an impact player for Lawrence during its tournament run. The junior guard scored 13 points in his first game back in the lineup as the Bulldogs defeated Brunswick in the quarterfinals, and he also scored in double figures in each of his team’s other tourney games.
Quin Leary capped off his high school career with two solid tournament performances to help Edward Little of Auburn reach the EM semifinals. That effort was highlighted by a 13-point, 16-rebound performance during the Red Eddies’ quarterfinal victory over Messalonskee of Oakland.
Hampden’s Nick Gilpin made one of the most dramatic shots in tournament history, his 30-foot runner from the left wing banking off the backboard and through the net as the buzzer sounded in the final to earn the Broncos their second straight trip to the state final. The freshman guard also provided coach Russ Bartlett’s club solid ballhandling and perimeter defense during his tournament debut.
In CLASS B, the 6-foot-8 John Murray and 6-5 Ryan Ripley provided Medomak Valley a 1-2 senior frontcourt punch that led the Panthers to their first regional title since competing in Western Maine Class B in 1980.
Murray opened the tournament with a monster 25-point, 16-rebound effort during top-ranked Medomak Valley’s 52-47 quarterfinal survival of Camden Hills of Rockport, a rival that had taken it to four overtimes less than three weeks earlier. He finished his three-game EM tourney run averaging in double figures in both points scored and rebounds.
Ripley also scored in double figures and averaged nearly 10 rebounds during the tournament. He had 21 points in the semifinals as coach Nick DePatsy’s club pulled away from upstart Foxcroft Academy, then contributed 13 points and eight rebounds in the championship game as Medomak Valley rallied past Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor.
Junior Jonathan Phelps sparked third-ranked MDI from the guard slot, both shooting from long range and driving to the basket. He scored 16 points in a quarterfinal win over Winslow, then had a game-high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field against Medomak Valley.
Adam Gray, a senior center, provided MDI an inside complement to Phelps. Gray was a double-figure scorer in all three tourney games as well as a rugged interior defensive presence. Gray scored 15 points in the regional final.
Senior guard Ryan Rebar fueled Foxcroft Academy’s run from the No. 13 seed — the last preliminary-round qualifier in the division — to the semifinals. After scoring 21 points in the Ponies’ prelim upset of No. 4 Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston, Rebar scored 18 points in a quarterfinal win over No. 5 Caribou.
In CLASS C, the junior tandem of Isaiah Bess and Trevor Lyford propelled Penquis to its first EM crown since 2000.
Bess was the Patriots’ offensive leader during the regional tournament. The explosive guard scored his 1,000th career point during the quarterfinals and amassed a team-high 22 points and six rebounds in the championship game as second-ranked Penquis edged top-seeded Houlton.
Lyford was a stabilizing factor for Penquis as well as a productive player at both ends of the court. He scored 18 points in the quarterfinals and scored the go-ahead basket midway through the fourth quarter of the final — which also was Patriots coach Tony Hamlin’s 400th career victory.
Sophomore Kyle Bouchard’s versatile play led Houlton back to the EM championship game for the second straight year. The 6-4 forward had the highest-scoring game of the EM tourney when he totaled 41 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the quarterfinals against Bucksport, then had 18 points and 10 boards in a semifinal win over Calais.
Devin Hall of Calais is the only senior on the Class C all-tourney team, just as he was one of the few seniors on a youthful Blue Devils team that advanced to the semifinals. The guard scored a game-high 24 points in the quarters as No. 5 Calais defeated No. 4 Sumner of East Sullivan, then added 14 points in a semifinal loss to Houlton.
Junior point guard Nick Guiod directed Houlton’s up-tempo offense throughout postseason play. He made three 3-pointers and scored 14 of his team-high 17 points during the first half of the regional final in staking the Shiretowners to a lead that held up until midway through the fourth quarter.
In CLASS D, Steven Decker emerged as a premier crunch-time performer as coach Tim Brewer’s Central Aroostook program won its fifth EM title in the last nine years.
Not only did the senior center lead the Panthers in scoring, but he led them when it mattered most with six overtime free throws during an overtime win over Washburn in the semifinals and five overtime points in the championship game when Central Aroostook outlasted Hodgdon.
Central Aroostook needed such heroics from Decker and his teammates in the final to overcome the work of Hodgdon sophomore Chris Hudson. The 6-5 forward had 28 points and 12 rebounds against the Panthers in the final on top of a 20-point quarterfinal effort against Deer Isle-Stoningtoon.
While Decker was doing much of his work in the lane, Central Aroostook teammates Joe Stiles and Chandler Brewer were working more from the outside.
Brewer, a sophomore, got off to a fast start with 27 points in the quarterfinals and added 15 points to his team’s championship-game effort.
Stiles had 23 points and six rebounds in the semifinals and 12 points in the final — including 3-of-4 free throws during the final 34 seconds of overtime to preserve the victory.
Senior guard Mitch Worcester of Washburn capped off a career during which he scored nearly 2,300 points by leading his team to the semifinals. He scored 34 points in the quarterfinals as the Beavers edged Bangor Christian.