WATERVILLE — Lines of police tape made makeshift yellow dividers in the stands of the Waterville Senior High School gym on Tuesday night. It was a not so subtle reminder to fans of Waterville and Winslow to make sure none of the bad blood between the rivals was spilled.
Fans of each team were loud and boisterous, nobody got out of control, and all were treated to an exciting game, a 59-54 Winslow win of a back and forth affair.
“I love these kind of games. These games are the best. I can’t imagine a better atmosphere than Winslow-Waterville,” Winslow senior guard Trevor Lovely, who scored a game-high 24 points, said.
The win gave the Black Raiders, now 13-3, a season sweep over the Purple Panthers (8-6). Winslow took the lead for good on a D.K. Herman layup with 1 minute, 4 seconds to play. Lovely made four free throws in the final 29 seconds to seal the victory.
Winslow trailed 50-43 after three quarters, but held the Panthers to four points over the final eight minutes. A Connor Wildes layup off a Justin Martin steal with 4:18 to play gave Winslow a 53-52 lead, its first since midway through the third quarter. Waterville answered with a Matt Bernier layup with 1:18 to go to retake the lead, but the Black Raiders reclaimed the lead when Herman hit his shot.
“That fourth quarter, I’m giving the kids all the credit on that one. They executed. In that fourth quarter, we executed all our stuff. This was all the team. They stepped up when we needed this win,” Winslow coach Jared Browne said. “It was a very big gut check win for us. This is how we’re going to have to play in the postseason.”
Waterville scored just four points in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers went 0 for 6 at the line in the second half.
“I think they stepped up their pressure a little bit. We had some good looks, they just didn’t fall. We got to the line a couple times and didn’t make free throws,” Waterville coach Wade Morrill said. “We put up such good numbers in the third quarter. There’s no real good answers for what happened in the fourth quarter. That’s something we need to figure out. Four points is pretty unacceptable in the fourth quarter.”
Waterville closed the third quarter with a 10-2 run, capped when Justin Jabar (12 points) made an off balance 17-foot shot off an offensive rebound at the buzzer. It was the second buzzer beater of the game for Waterville. Chris Hale (22 points) made a halfcourt shot as the first quarter ended to give the Panthers a 20-14 lead.
Trailing 24-14 early in the second quarter, Lovely went on a one man run, scoring 13 consecutive points to push the Black Raiders ahead, 27-24. Lovely’s run included three 3-pointers, and had fans of both teams screaming.
“I heard both crowds saying my name. I heard the Waterville side, mostly, because they were right next to my ear. It was really motivation. It was stuff that I can’t really say,” Lovely said.
Waterville center Owen Brown, who scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in last Friday’s win over Camden Hills, was a focus of Winslow’s defense. Martin and Herman spent most of the night locked on Brown, holding him to 12 points, and scoreless over the final 13 minutes.
“That fourth quarter, when they were trying to get it into (Brown) those last few possessions, we did a great job. They couldn’t get it to him, and it forced them to take some bad shots,” Browne said.
Martin had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Winslow.
Morrill was pleased with his team’s effort, especially since when these rivals met in Winslow in December, the Black Raiders pulled away early and won by 18 points.
“For three quarters tonight, we were the better team. But it’s a four quarter game,” Morrill said. “We knew we had to keep (the score) in the mid-50′s. Mid-50′s and we had a shot.”