WINSLOW — The Winslow High School boys basketball team doesn’t have time to savor a 51-44 win over Maine Central Institute in a Class B North preliminary round game Thursday night. The No. 6 Black Raiders (15-4) have to turn around and play a regional quarterfinal against No. 3 Central (15-3) at 5 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
After rallying from a nine-point deficit with 6:35 to play, however, the Black Raiders certainly know they head to Bangor playoff tested.
“We just knew we had to play. We know we have to play our brand of basketball to come back in that game,” said Winslow senior guard Spencer Miranda, who scored nine of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter to help lead Winslow’s comeback. “We knew we could do it. We’ve got great guys. We’ve got scorers, we’ve got defenders.”
No. 11 MCI (6-13) led 36-27 on a Caleb Romanov layup with 6:35 to play, and the Huskies were living up to Winslow coach Jared Browne’s billing as the best six-win team in the state. The Huskies still led, 39-32, with five minutes to play when a Miranda 3-pointer sparked the Black Raiders.
“To Winslow’s credit, they made some big plays. They’ve shown that all year, that they can score in bunches and that they’ve got unlimited range,” MCI coach Josh Tardy said. “They splashed us. We were preparing for them to make a run, and the fact of the matter is, they made some big shots.”
When his team was down nine, Browne called a timeout.
“I’m very calm in the huddle, because if I’m calm, they’re going to be calm, too,” Browne said. “I said, ‘There’s seven minutes left in the season and we’re down nine. It’s up to you guys to go out, be yourselves and execute.’ And they did. They went out and responded.”
A Jack Morneault (12 points) putback with 3:34 left tied the game at 39-39. With 2:52 to play, senior Keanu Earle converted an and-one chance to give Winslow a 42-39 lead, its first lead since midway through the third quarter. The shot was the result of Winslow sticking to the game plan to attack the rim, which also opened up the offense for seven 3-pointers.
“Keanu’s and-one, that was huge for us. We did a great job, I thought, attacking the rim. It didn’t look great in the first half, but we stuck with our game plan and it paid off for us,” Browne said.
Added Miranda: “We were able to keep it up from there, keep our energy going, and play hard from there.”
Winslow’s defense improved down the stretch. The Black Raiders forced four turnovers over the final six minutes, and they crashed the boards. Morneault had four of his 13 rebounds in the final two minutes, preventing the Huskies from getting second chances that had helped them earlier in the game. Playing with four fouls for most of the fourth quarter, MCI big man Jose Valverde couldn’t play as aggressively as he had in the first half.
“We emphasized team defense. We knew if we could get a stop, we could come back and score,” Miranda said.
Romanov and Josh Buker each had 10 points for MCI. After starting the season with nine consecutive losses, Tardy felt throughout the game his team showed the resolve it had when it rallied to reach the playoffs.
“My kids battled, and they showed they belong. It was a noble battle, and we lost to a good team,” Tardy said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242