AUGUSTA — Luke Hartwell doesn’t need a fresh scouting report on Hyde. The Valley High School boys basketball coach and his Cavaliers played the Phoenix twice in the regular season, and lost each game. Hartwell and his team know how good Hyde is.
“It’s one of those things, we’re going to have to play our best game of the season to beat them,” Hartwell said.
Valley (16-4) gets one final shot at Hyde (18-2) on Saturday, when they play in the Western Class D championship game at the Augusta Civic Center. Tip is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. The winner will play either Southern Aroostook or Hodgdon in the state championship game on March 1.
Hyde beat Valley, 59-36, in Bath on Jan. 7. The Phoenix completed the sweep with a 49-38 win in Bingham on Feb. 3.
“A lot of coaches don’t want to face a team you’ve beaten twice. We beat Valley twice. We handled them at home, and had an off game up there and still had a 10-point win,” Hyde coach Peter Rowe said.
The Phoenix are adept at turning their full court pressure into offense, scoring quickly off the fast break and in transition. Hyde’s offense is led by the inside duo of 6-foot-4 Warsame Mohamed and 6-6 Akim Sanni. Mohamed and Sanni combined to score 34 points in Hyde’s 49-39 win over North Haven in the semifinals.
When these teams played in Bingham earlier this month, Sanni scored 16 points and grabbed 20 rebounds.
“Tough, tough matchup,” Valley senior guard Jordan Gillespie said. “They have two big guys. Our post guys will have their work cut out for them.”
“They have a lot of experience and a lot of size. We’re going to have to do a really good job boxing out,” Hartwell said.
Evander Lenardson and Wilson MacMillan are perimeter shooting threats for the Phoenix.
“For us, it’s about reducing the turnovers, reducing the mistakes,” Rowe said.
The Cavs advanced to their second straight Western Maine final with a 50-40 win over defending state champ Forest Hills, a team that coincidently, beat Valley twice in the regular season. The Cavs are led by senior guard Dylan Belanger, who was selected to play in the senior all-star game on March 8 in Bangor, along with Hyde’s Mohamed. Teagan Staples and Collin Miller will be in the low post for Valley, with Cody Lawyerson and Gillespie outside threats.
“Valley, right now, is peaking and they’re playing very aggressive basketball, which is great,” Rowe said. “We don’t fear anybody. We basically think we’re in the driver’s seat. They have to stop us, and I don’t think anybody can stop us.”
What could hurt the Phoenix is free throws. In two tournament games, Hyde is just 50 percent (22-44) at the foul line. Valley is 65 percent (33-51) from the line in the tournament.