AUGUSTA — In his first season as Lawrence High School’s boys basketball coach, Mike McGee coached the Bulldogs to one of the biggest upsets of his career, beating Waterville in the Eastern Class A final.
On Friday night, McGee almost did it again. It took a buzzer-beating 30 foot 3-pointer by Hampden Academy freshman Nick Gilpin to beat Lawrence and give the Broncos a 40-39 win in the Eastern A final.
It was the closest game of the season for the Broncos, who had defeated every previous opponent by at least 11 points.
Hampden (21-0) will play the winner of tonight’s Western Class A final between Bonny Eagle and South Portland. Lawrence ends the season at 16-5.
“We knew when we were at full strength we could play with them. We led the whole game. We did some great things,” McGee said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m kind of in shock.”
Gilpin took a pass from his brother, Zach Gilpin, and as he put it, “kind of just let it fly.”
“At first I didn’t know, but after a second, it looked good,” Gilpin said of his shot. “As soon as I turned around, I saw Coach (Russ) Bartlett celebrating.”
Gilpin’s shot gave Hampden its first lead since an 8-7 lead early in the first quarter, and capped a crazy final 10 seconds. With 10 seconds to play, Zach Gilpin, Nick’s older brother, sank a pair of free throws to tie the game at 37-37.
Lawrence’s Xavier Lewis made a baseline jumper with 4.2 seconds left to give Lawrence the lead and was fouled on the play. But Lewis missed the free throw, the Bulldogs’ sixth missed foul shot of the fourth quarter, setting up Nick Gilpin’s heroics.
Lawrence led by four points, 37-33, with 1:24 to play when Spencer Carey made a layup. Carey scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
Cam Scott scored to cut Lawrence lead to two points with 53 seconds left, and Aaron LaFrance missed a pair of free throws for the Bulldogs with 27.2 seconds to play.
Right from the start of the game, the Bulldogs made sure to slow the pace.
“We didn’t want to settle for jump shots,” McGee said. “We wanted to get the ball in the paint and take our time and get a good shot every time.”
Lawrence played deliberate offense, often passing the ball around the perimeter waiting for the right shot. A Nick Noiles 3-pointer gave Lawrence a 14-10 lead with 2:12 left in the first half.
Lawrence led by as many as seven points in the third quarter, 24-17, when Lewis (10 points ) made a 3-pointer. Hampden tied the game at 28 when Brian Fickett converted a 3-point play with 6:50 left in the third. The Broncos tied it again on a Zach Gilpin (13 points) basket with 2:47 left in the third, 31-31, but Lawrence answered with a pair of Matt Saunders free throws and a Carey bucket.
Lawrence did a great job defensively, holding Matt Palmer to two points and Tyler Norris scoreless.
“Our kids, they started to get it about four weeks ago, defensively,” McGee said.
“They guarded Zach and Matt Palmer really well,” Nick Gilpin said. “They’ve been our leading scorers during our tournament run. That’s what slowed us down.”
McGee, who announced his retirement earlier this season, ends his career with 350 wins and a pair of state titles.
“I thought I had one more in me. It’s not a good way to go out, but I’ll you what’ is great is, I went out with these kids.They’re tough as nails.I don’t know if anyone in the bleachers thought we were going to win, but I can tell you right now, the players and coaches in that locker room had no question,” McGee said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242