WATERVILLE — The running joke around the Waterville Senior High School boys basketball team is, when senior center John-Peter Michaud gets a double-double, his coaches and teammates call him by his preferred nickname, J.P. No double-double, it’s John-Peter.
It was J.P. on the court Wednesday night, as Michaud and the Purple Panthers played arguably their best game of the season, beating Old Town, 75-33, in the Eastern B preliminary round.
“Senior year, to come out like this, it feels great,” Michaud, who scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, said.
With the win, No. 7 Waterville (14-5) advances to the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2001, when the Panthers played in Class A. Waterville will face No. 2 Presque Isle (15-3) at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium. No. 10 Old Town ends the season at 10-9.
“They’ve worked hard to do this. You try to instill the work ethic in the offseason, and last year’s group kind of started the trend,” Waterville coach Jason Briggs said. “This group, they put the time in. When you put the time in, it’s pretty simple. You get results.”
Waterville never trailed, and it was apparent from the opening minutes that the Coyotes couldn’t keep up with the Panthers, who pushed the tempo throughout the game and attacked the basket at every opportunity.
“It seems like all of our guards get to the rim at will,” Michaud said. “That’s what Coach says, utilize our athleticism. Attack.”
A 22-5 run in the first half gave Waterviile a 34-11 halftime lead. The Panthers wanted to speed the game up to wear down Garrett Libby, Old Town’s top player and one of the top scorers in the Big East. Waterville played excellent defense on Libby all night, holding him to seven points.
Waterville also dominated the boards, outrebounding the Coyotes 52-36.
“Just don’t let (Libby) catch the ball, and if he does catch the ball, swarm to him. We knew we’d have a rebounding advantage, or should. Those were the keys we talked about at the beginning, and we executed,” Briggs said.
Added Michaud: “Just keeping a hand up on him, that made all the difference. We just got in his head early and then he couldn’t make anything.”
On the other hand, while Waterville’s top scorer Chris Hale, was held to four points, other Panthers stepped up. Justin Jabar scored 17 points, while Jordan DeRosby scored 16. Josh Gormley chipped in 10 points to give Waterville four players in double figures. Briggs praised Hale for not forcing his offense.
“That’s a good sign. It just goes to show what type of kid (Hale) is. We’re distributing the basketball, that’s for sure,” Briggs said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242