Penquis defeats Boothbay for second State Class C championship

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

     BANGOR — The Penquis Valley Patriots saw a 13-point fourth quarter lead trimmed to one with 37.7 seconds remaining, but held off the Boothbay Region Seahawks to win the school’s second state basketball championship on March 2 with 61-54 victory at the Bangor Auditorium. Penquis built their lead by connecting on a tournament game record of seven 3-pointers and used their man-to-man defense to keep Seahawk star Anthony DiMauro scoreless in the first half.

Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    VICTORY! — A jubilant Isaiah Bess celebrates moments after his team held off a furious fourth quarter comeback bid by the Boothbay Region Seahawks in the Class C State championship game. Penquis had built a 13-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before the Seahawks were able to close within one point after back-to-back 3-pointers by Boothbay guard Andrew Hallinan.

     Penquis led 47-34 with 6:28 remaining in the game when the Boothbay’s full-court press began taking a toll on the Patriots. The Seahawks went on a 10-1 run to close within four points before Penquis’ Derrick Johnson was intentionally fouled. Johnson made both free throws and on the ensuing possession forward Isaiah Bess was fouled and made one free throws to extend the Patriot advantage to 51-44.
    As the quarter progressed, the Patriots’ six-man rotation started to tire and DiMauro started to find the basket. The Boothbay star scored all of his 15 points in the second half including nine points in the final stanza. With the Patriots’ grasp on the gold ball loosening, Boothbay continued their defensive pressure and following consecutive 3-pointers by Seahawk guard Andrew Hallinan trimmed the lead to 55-54 with only 37.7 seconds remaining.

Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    DREAMS COME TRUE — Penquis guard Trevor Lyford said it was his dream to win a state basketball championship. His dream became a reality on March 2 as Penquis defeated Western Maine champ Boothbay, 61-54, to win the Class C title. Lyford scored 20 points and made 12 of 14 foul shoots in the fourth quarter to hold off a Seahawk comeback.

     But Penquis turned back the Seahawk rally as junior Trevor Lyford connecting on all four free throws down the stretch. The captain made 10 of 12 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. In total,
     Penquis connected on 18 of 26 free throw attempts in the final quarter. Lyford credited his coach for preparing the team to make free throws in the pressure packed environment of the Bangor Auditorium.
    In preparation for the Eastern Maine Class C final on Feb. 28, Coach Hamlin used an unconventional technique for handling the tournament pressure. He instructed his team during a practice not to think about the color blue.   

Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    BIG FAN —Abigail Anderson shows she’s a big fan of Cody Herbest with an oversized head shot of the Penquis forward.

    “We were all thinking what? Don’t think blue?” Lyford said. “Then he told us the purpose was to put all the thoughts about the pressure out of our minds and just shoot your free throws. So when I stepped up to the line, I just thought ‘Blue!’ and shot them.”
     It didn’t seem Penquis would need to make all of those fourth quarter free throws as they built a double-digit first-half-lead by connecting on six first-half 3-pointers. The Patriots built a 21-9 lead by puncturing the Boothbay 2-3 zone defense with their perimeter shooting and preventing the Seahawks from utilizing their fast break.

Observer photo/Bill Pearson 

    GOOD LUCK, PATRIOTS! — Penquis Valley High School Principal Matt Hackett and Camden National Bank Milo Branch Assistant Manager Brenda Kelly proudly display a banner during a Feb. 28 pep rally wishing the boys basketball team good luck in their Class C State championship game. The CNB provided the school with $375 to purchase free and reduced price tickets for the March 2 state championship game held in Bangor. Hackett also thanked Danny and Liz Gerrish for providing a Cyr coach bus to transport the players and cheerleaders to the game. There was also a ceremony commemorating Tony Hamlin for achieving his 400th victory as a varsity basketball coach.

    With the Patriots leading by eight with just over two minutes remaining in the half, Isaiah Bess put an exclamation point on the Patriot lead with a slam dunk which brought the Auditorium crowd to their feet.
     Bess received a pass 20 feet from the basket on the left wing. He took two dribbles to burst by his defender to deliver a two-handed slam dunk. He dunked again in the third quarter and missed a third attempt after being fouled.
    Bess was encouraged by Hamlin to dunk in the half-court if the opportunity presented itself.
     “I told him if he had the chance to throw one of those tomahawks down to do so because it would scare ‘bejeepers’ out of them,” Hamlin said.

Observer photo/Bill Pearson 

    WE’RE NO. 1— The Penquis Valley Patriots are all smiles and proclaim themselves No. 1 after defeating Boothbay 61-54 to claim their second state basketball championship. Penquis defeated the Seahawks in 2000 for their first state title. The Class C title game was also the final tournament game played in the Bangor Auditorium.

    As the Boothbay defensive pressure increased and the Patriot lead dwindled, Hamlin called timeout to remind his team the importance of not committing turnovers and to take their time on free throws.
    As Boothbay became more aggressive on the defensive end so did their foul total. Penquis spent most of the final quarter shooting the double bonus.
    Hamlin saw the toll of using a six-man rotation was having on his defense. Boothbay was driving to basket because the Penquis defense was too tired to rotate to stop the dribble penetration.
    “Our whole defense is predicated on nobody driving down the lane. They started to find some success scoring layups and kicking it out for those two long 3’s,” Hamlin said. “I called time-out to remind them how important it was to rebound and get a stop.”
    With the Patriots leading 57-54, Hamlin got his wish as Bess stole the ball with 28 seconds. He scored a lay-up to secure the state championship for Penquis.

Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    BESS MOVE — Penquis forward Isaiah Bess beats his defender and heads for the basket for the first of his two monster slam dunks on March 2 during the State Class C championship game held at the Bangor Auditorium. Bess led all scorers with 27 points and a key steal with 28 seconds remaining to clinch the team’s first basketball state title in 13 years.

    “This is a dream come true,” Bess said. “We’ve all been together since we were little kids working towards the goal of winning a state championship. Coming into the tournament Houlton and Boothbay may have had more talent, but we have the best team.”
    After two straight losses to Lee Academy in the regional semifinals, 2012-13 seemed to be an opportunity for Penquis to win their first gold ball since 2000.
    The Patriots returned the scoring duo of Bess and Lyford along with returning senior point guard Tyler Pelletier, and senior forwards Cody Herbest and Jason Durant.
    “This is unbelievable. I’m having a hard time processing this,” Hamlin said. “It is rare to win one gold ball,  because it’s really difficult. We knew this was the year if we were going to do it. Usually things don’t work out as planned. So we really feel fortunate about it.” 
    Bess and Lyford combined for 47 points. Bess had three 3-pointers and Lyford had one. Herbest had eight points with two 3-pointers. Derrick Johnson had four points. Pelletier had two points.
    Penquis finished the season at 21-1. Boothbay complied a 20-2 record.
    This was Penquis’ second state basketball championship and third Eastern Maine title.
Hamlin has been the coach for both state championships and all three state      title game appearances.
    Hamlin has 401 wins as a coach in his 31-year career at five high schools.
    He plans on making a decision in a few days about whether to coach next season.

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