WATERVILLE — Winslow boys basketball fans remember Justin Murray strutting through the Bangor Auditorium, on his way to a 30-point performance in the Eastern B tournament.

Murray’s now a junior at Thomas College, and he was averaging 5.6 points per game this season before Saturday afternoon. Then he went off, and it looked like Bangor all over again.

Over the last 10 minutes and change, Murray scored 16 points, draining 3-pointers and swaggering fearlessly to the rim. He also converted a three-point play with 5.5 seconds left, lifting the Terriers to a 66-65 men’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Murray finished with 23 points.

“It’s a zone I haven’t been in, in a while, honestly,” Murray said. “Teammates had confidence in me, Coach had confidence in me, and I had to take shots.”

“Justin gave me a great Christmas present — sending us into break with a win,” Thomas coach Geoff Hensley said.

Murray started his barrage with Thomas trailing 52-45 midway through the second half. With 10:07 left, he hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. Within the next 90 seconds, he knocked down two more threes, giving Thomas a 54-52 lead.

UMPI (7-4) charged back on the outside shooting of Sam Smith, and led 63-59 with under four minutes left. Murray got Thomas within a basket when he drove the lane for a layup, then made that basket himself with a pull-up lefty leaner with 2:30 left.

Chase Vicaire put the Owls up 65-63 on two free throws with 2:01 remaining. Thomas would have several more chances, but when the Terriers threw away an inbounds pass with 1:15 left, Hensley covered his face with his hands.

The Terriers got their last chance off a steal with 26 seconds to go. After a timeout, Thomas set up a play and Levi Barnes (18 points) had the ball on the right side and passed to Murray on the wing. Murray drove the lane, drew contact, and banked in the shot to tie the score. Thomas freshman Ke’mauree Williams was so excited that he jumped around and ran to the bleachers, where he slapped hands with a couple fans.

On the play, the officials ruled Murray was pulled down for an intentional foul, meaning he’d get two foul shots and Thomas would get the ball. Murray said afterward he was so focused on scoring he couldn’t tell how he was hit.

“I felt it, but didn’t worry about it,” Murray said. “Just played basketball.”

Murray made one of the free throws for a 66-65 lead, but UMPI forced a turnover on the inbounds play. A desperation 40-foot heave by Maurice Harris was no good at the buzzer.

Harris, a 6-foot-6 freshman from Miami, finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. He also made three 3-pointers in the first seven minutes as UMPI bolted to a 17-9 lead. The Owls were ahead 24-16 when Thomas scored 10 straight points. That streak was broken by a jumper by UMPI freshman Trevor Lovely, a Winslow graduate who scored nine points on 3 of 3 shooting.

“We just tried to exploit the mismatch,” Murray said. “A lot of the times, we went small, and one of their bigs was guarding one of our guards.”

“Our game plan was, our team defense has to beat their athleticism,” Hensley said. “Our defensive rebounding was pretty good, and whenever they tried to drive and take us off the dribble, we had one or two guys ready to help out. That’s how we’re going to have to win games. We don’t have the most talent, but we have the biggest heart, and the best team defense out there.”

Williams nearly turned the crowd into a big party when he stole the ball at midcourt and threw down a one-handed slam to put the Terriers up 30-28. But UMPI responded with an 8-0 run, capped by Lovely’s 3-pointer, and the Owls were up 41-33 at the half.

Thomas trailed by as much as 11 in the second half, but once Murray got going, the game was tight the rest of the way. The Terriers certainly have experience in that kind of games this season, but the result has usually gone the other way. Thomas lost to Norwich in a game that was tied with 40 seconds left. The Terriers were held scoreless over the final 3:48 against Regis, and lost by five. They dropped a game against Husson after leading by nine late in the first half. And just last week, Thomas lost to Johnson State by one point on a layup with six seconds left.

So although Thomas won’t play again until Jan. 6, the Terriers realized they needed this one.

“We’re starting to learn how to win,” Hensley said. “Our record right now is 3-7 — we could easily be 7-3. It’s good to see our guys starting to fight, and put it together, and win the games.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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