AUGUSTA — Maranacook scored an early goal then played a strong defensive game to win the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B boys soccer championship beating Camden Hills 1-0 Thursday afternoon.

“This was a tremendous playoff atmosphere,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “We really wanted to win this game and played with a lot of pride.”

Maranacook (13-0-2), the No. 2 seed in Western Maine Class B and Camden Hills (11-2-2), the No. 2 seed in Eastern Maine Class B will play home quarterfinal games Wednesday.

“We played a little tentative and gave Maranacook too much time,” Camden Hills coach Ryan Hurley said. “We have to start playing a lot cleaner in the box, if we are going to be successful.”

Maranacook’s attack resembled a run-and-gun strategy in basketball. The Black Bears were firing away whenever possible and from distance. Maranacook finished with a 17-5 advantage in shots.

“We challenged for every ball in the air and on the ground,” Beckwith said. “We played a full game of soccer and played hard.”

Getting the ball into the penalty area was a prime objective of the Maranacook attack and it proved beneficial early in the game.

Camden Hills gave up a free kick along the endline on the right side. Alex Tooth sent a low ball into the area that ricocheted of several Windjammer defenders and fell to Zach Elwell, whose quick shot was blocked. The ball bounced once before Taylor Wilbur drove a hard shot into the back of the net from six yards out at 26:29 of the first half.

Defensively, the Black Bears employed a strategy they have used successfully several times this season. Wilbur takes on the opposition’s top scorer while Maranacook plays a four-man defensive system, aware of where Wilbur and his man are at all times.

“We knew this would be a tough game but our plan was to have Tyler mark Peter (Vannorsdall),” Elwell said. “We knew we would have to work on defense and it is something that has worked for us.”

Elwell, Cory McSweeney, Nick Lacasse and Chris Beckwith played an exceptional game in the back for Maranacook, allowing goalkeeper AJ Freeman to earn a shutout while making just three saves.

“This was an incredible win for us,” Elwell, a senior, said. “Two years ago Camden beat us 2-1 for the KVAC championship and to win this as seniors is really big.”

Camden Hill’s best chance came less than three minutes after the opening kickoff. Gabe Doble sent a ball in from distance on Freeman, who attempted to take ball on the bounce. Freeman tipped the ball over his head, clanging it off the crossbar and nearly into the goal before he managed to clear it away.

Camden Hills goalkeeper Marshall Spear turned in an outstanding game, making eight saves. The biggest came with 24:15 remaining in the game. Lacasse, at the top of the penalty area, turned on a ground pass from Elwell, and snapped off a drive to the right corner of the goal. The ball appeared to be going into the open net when Spear made a fantastic diving save to push the ball around the post and out of bounds.

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