Penquis defeats Houlton for Eastern Maine Class C title

Hamlin wins 400th
as coach, Bess scores 1,000th point
in quarterfinals

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    BANGOR — If you were looking for a Hollywood ending to the last Eastern Maine Class C championship played in the Bangor Auditorium then the game contested by No. 2 Penquis and No. 1 Houlton just might fit the bill. Houlton led by as many as 11 points in the second half and the underdog Patriots were watching their chances for victory dwindle as they were held scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half.

sp-Penquis boys EM-dc3-po-9

Observer photo/Joe Cyr

    JUMPIN’ JUBILATION — The Penquis Patriots celebrate following their come-from-behind victory on Feb. 23 in the Eastern Maine Class C championship game. Penquis faces Boothbay Region High School on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. for the Class C state championship. The game will be the last one played at the soon-to-be closed Bangor Auditorium.

    The team’s leading scorer, Isaiah Bess, was battling leg cramps and as coach Tony Hamlin called a timeout in the third quarter, he could see his other players were also battling fatigue. This led the coach to give his players some words of encouragement during a moment of despair.
SP-Penquis boys EM-dc2-po-9

Observer photo/Joe Cyr

    VICTORY CRY! — Penquis captain Trevor Lyford swings the nets following his team’s 46-41 victory on Feb. 23 in the Eastern Maine Class C Championship game. Lyford scored 11 points against No. 1 Houlton. Penquis went on a 22-6 run to turn an 11-point deficit to a five-point lead with 3:56 remaining in the game.

    “I told them if you’re tired then that means they’re even more tired. So I told them now is to take it to them and leave everything you have on the court.” Hamlin said. “I wasn’t worried. This is a gritty bunch of kids who compete hard.”

    Following Hamlin’s timeout in the third, the coach directed his squad to extend their defense to fullcourt. The Patriots employed a series of traps and double teams which caused several turnovers leading to easy baskets in transition. Penquis went on a 22-6 spurt to take a 43-38 lead with 2:21 seconds left in the game. During another timeout, Hamlin once again switched his defense. This time it was to a 2-3 zone in order to make Houlton use some precious clock to erase the deficit.

    “I think they got tired and they surprisingly lost some of their composure,” Hamlin said. “We struggled quite a bit to start the second half, but once we started scoring some points it started to go our way after that.”

    Houlton started the game with a man-to-man defense, but switched to a zone defense in the second half. It appeared the tough, defensive pressure displayed by the Shiretowners in the first half had begun wearing them down in the second.

    The defensive changes allowed Penquis forward Bess to assert himself on the offensive end. He led all scorers with 22 points. He had a dunk to put an exclamation point on a Patriot third-quarter rally and made a 3-pointer with 3:56 remaining to tie the score at 38. However, Bess doesn’t believe his scoring burst was the key factor in his team’s come-from-behind victory.
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Observer photo/Joe Cyr

    SLAM DUNK — Penquis forward Isaiah Bess helped ignite a second-half comeback for the Patriots on Feb. 23 with this slam dunk in the second half. Penquis used a full-court press to erase an 11-point deficit with a 22-6 second-half run which propelled them to the Eastern Maine Class C championship on Feb. 23.

    “It all starts with our defense. We work so hard on our defense and that’s going to win us a championship next Saturday,” Bess said. “This is something we’ve been playing for since we were little kids. I can’t explain in words what it means to us.”

    A major challenge facing Penquis was guarding Houlton forward Kyle Bouchard. That assignment went to Patriot forward Cody Herbest who held the Houlton star to 10 points. Bouchard averaged 29.5 points in the previous two tournament games including a 41-point effort against Bucksport in the quarterfinals.

    “Cody did an excellent job on him. Bouchard is a beast and a tough player to guard,” Hamlin said. “I got to give a lot of credit for the job he did. It wasn’t an easy job.”

    Houlton coach Rob Moran thought a major turning point happened in the first quarter when Bouchard picked up two personal fouls. Bouchard was guarding Bess, but after the second foul, Houlton went to a zone defense. Moran also believed when Penquis went to their full-court defense his team lost their patience resulting in them not getting the ball to their playmakers.

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Observer photo/Joe Cyr

    PATRIOT GAMES — Penquis forward Cody Herbest looks to drive against Houlton guard Kole Buzzeo on Feb. 23 during the Patriots’ 46-41 win in the Eastern Maine Class C finals in Bangor. Herbest scored four points and turned in a stellar defensive performance. He limited Houlton’s leading scorer Kyle Bouchard to only 10 points.

    “Bouchard’s foul trouble changed how we played the rest of the game. It hurt us for sure,” Moran said. “It made us switch to a zone and they found the gaps in our zone.”

sp-Penquis boys EM-dc6-po-9

Observer photo/Joe Cyr

    DEFENSIVE PRESSURE — Penquis point guard Tyler Pelletier faces some tough defensive pressure from Houlton guard Nicholas Guiod during the Eastern Maine Class C championship game on Feb. 23 in Bangor. Penquis over came an 11-point second half deficit sparked by two steals by Pelletier.

    This was Hamlin’s 400th victory and his third regional championship at Penquis. His team moves on to face Boothbay Region High School this Saturday at 8:45 p.m. in the state championship game in Bangor. Penquis faced off against Boothbay in their last state championship appearance in 2000.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Burnham/Boothbay Register

    PARTY LIKE IT’S 2000 — Boothbay Regional High School players Steven Barter, Lincoln Simmons, Anthony DiMauro and John Hepburn celebrate after the Class C West No. 1 Seahawks (20-1) defeated the second-seeded Waynflete School of Portland, 70-52, in the regional final Feb. 23 at the Augusta Civic Center. Boothbay will now face East champion Penquis for the state championship on the evening of March 2 at the Bangor Auditorium. The two programs played in the 2000 state game, with Penquis winning 58-45. The coaching matchup from 13 years ago will be repeated on Saturday with Penquis’ Tony Hamlin going against Boothbay’s I.J. Pinkham (who is 1-3 in state games with the victory coming in 2001 and the last berth in 2007). Penquis is in the state championship for the first time since defeating Boothbay 13 years ago.

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