READFIELD — If Friday night’s season opener between Medomak Valley and Maranacook is a preview of how things are going to go in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division, then fans are going to be very entertained this winter.
Down eight points with just under three minutes to play, Medomak Valley scored the last 10 points of the game. John Murray’s jumper from the top of the key with three seconds left gave the Panthers their only lead of the second half, and a 56-54 win.
“We meant to set up a different play. I saw the clock at, like, six seconds left. I had the ball at the top of the key and I knew I had to just go to the lane and try to make something happen,” Murray said.
The 6-foot-7 Murray scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and hit four 3-pointers. If defenders play Murray tight on the perimeter, he has the ability to go by. If they sag off, as Maranacook’s 6-8 Kyle Boucher often did to help inside, Murray will shoot the 3.
“I thought Boucher did a fantastic job on him tonight. When Boucher stayed underneath to help out in the paint, Murray was hitting 3s. It’s tough to stop a guy like that,” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said.
The Black Bears led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter and by 10 in the third, but Medomak rallied each time. Jesse Evans scored on a driving layup with 2:50 remaining to give Maranacook a 54-46 lead, but the Black Bears never scored again.
Ryan Ripley (11 points, 12 rebounds) hit a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left to tie the game at 54-54. After Maranacook’s Kent Mohlar missed a shot with 24 seconds left, Murray grabbed the rebound. The Panthers called timeout with 17.2 seconds left to set up the go-ahead score.
“They made some big plays. We missed some shots. I really think it comes down to that, because I think both teams busted their butts and it was an incredible game. A game like that’s going to be determined by one or two plays,” Schmidt said.
The teams traded baskets throughout the first quarter. An Evans basket with 34 seconds left in the first gave the Black Bears a 12-11 lead, a lead they would hold until Murray’s final shot.
Cam Brochu scored with 23 seconds left in the first half to give Maranacook its largest lead of the game, 33-22, but Murray’s 3 at the buzzer cut Maranacook’s lead to 33-25 at the half.
“We had to be committed. We definitely came out to a slow start. We thought that it was going to be an easy run, but it was definitely a learning experience for us,” Murray said.
Evans led Maranacook with 14 points. Taylor Wilbur added 12, while Boucher had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Black Bears.
“We’ve got a lot of athletes. I’ve said that about this team from day one, and we proved it tonight,” Schmidt said. “We proved we can play with one of the best teams in the conference, one of the best teams in Eastern Maine. It’s just one or two mental breakdowns.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242