AUGUSTA — Gardiner fans on hand for their team’s Class A North quarterfinal game Saturday might not have guessed Brewer center Matt Pushard is headed to the University of Maine next year on a baseball scholarship.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is a baller and a nightmare matchup who can post up or take his man to the three-point arc. Saturday, all his talents were on display before about 3,500 fans at the Augusta Civic Center. He finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in leading the Witches to a 50-34 victory.

The second-seeded Witches (15-4) advanced to the regional semifinals, where they will play No. 3 Medomak Valley on Wednesday. Seventh-seeded Gardiner finishes 8-12.

The Tigers were at a disadvantage from the outset. Leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Lamb wore a mask to protect the nose he broke in a preliminary round game Wednesday against Cony. He scored the first basket of the game but that was it for the 6-4 senior.

“He said he was having trouble seeing (the ball) on the catch,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “He couldn’t see the pass coming.”

To compound matters, Lamb got into early foul trouble. Sophomore Connor McGuire played well off the bench for the Tigers, finishing with a team-high 10 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset Lamb’s ineffectiveness. And no one had an answer for Pushard.

“If it wasn’t for baseball I really think he’d be playing some excellent basketball at the next level,” Brewer coach Clayton Blood said. “He can really handle, he shoots the three really well, great passer, no turnovers.”

Pushard had plenty of help. Sophomore guard Kobe Rogerson scored 10 points, including a pair of 3s in the first quarter. And senior Carter Smith added nine.

“I think at the end of the year we didn’t really play well, we didn’t finish games well,” Pushard said. “But after the KVAC game and after our home loss (on) senior night it was kind of a (wakeup call).”

The Witches lost decisively to top-seeded Hampden in the final game of the regular season but bounced back to beat the Broncos in the conference championship game.

“That was huge for us,” Blood said. “It’s still basketball.”

Lamb’s opening basket provided Gardiner’s only lead of the game. The Witches led 16-11 at the quarter break and 27-19 at the half as Psuhard ended the second quarter with a 3 from the right corner and a jumper from the right side. Gardiner senior Eli Fish hit back-to-back layups, the second off a nice spin move, to cut the lead to 33-26 late in the third quarter, but Pushard responded with a layup, freshman Damien Vance hit a jumper in the lane and Smith a free throw to make it 38-26 at the break.

Brian Dunn added eight points for the Tigers while Lamb grabbed six rebounds and Ben Shaw five.

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