High school basketball teams and their fans celebrated regional championships last weekend in Augusta, Bangor and Portland last weekend, and will get a chance to create more memories and win more hardware this weekend in those same cities.

A game in Bath on Wednesday didn’t draw a crowd of thousands or dozens of media representatives and radio stations, but it had just as much drama as its Maine Principals’ Association equivalent, and some pretty high stakes of its own.

And fans of the victors even got to storm the court to celebrate when the final buzzer sounded.

Kents Hill and about five dozen of its fans did just that after the Huskies rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat top-seeded Hyde School of Bath in the Maine Association of Independent Schools Athletic Directors (MAISAD) semifinals, 59-58. The fourth-seeded Huskies, who had already avenged a 50-point loss to the Phoenix earlier in the season with a four-point win on Feb. 13, earned a trip to the championship game against New Hampton School on Saturday.

Luke Arsenault of Manchester scored the winning basket for the Huskies with 17 seconds left. Fellow senior Trevor Guity spotted his co-captain cutting to the basket at the back of Hyde’s 3-2 zone and fired a pass underneath to him. With a couple of Hyde defenders bearing down on him, the 6-foot-6 Arsenault laid it in to put the Huskies in front.

“They were running a 3-2 zone defense and we knew they were going to run it aggressively,” Arsenault said. “Coach came up with a play that involved a lot of cutting and reversing the ball, and once we reversed the ball to the opposite side, I cut to the basket and Trevor Guity made a great pass. Two Hyde players converged on me and I jumped up with them and luckily laid it in.”

Kents Hill still needed to come up with a defensive stop to clinch the win, which it did, setting off a celebration the players and their coach, R.J. Jenkins, will never forget.

“It was great,” Jenkins said. “We had 60 or so kids and faculty from Kents Hill come to the game and they stormed the court.”

Compared to their peers who play in the MPA tournaments, prep school athletes such as Arsenault are used to playing in front of relatively small crowds consisting of a few students and faculty. Augmented by the famously boisterous Hyde fans, Wednesday’s game was unlike anything Arsenault and his teammates have experienced.

“It was a really incredible feeling. It was a very fun atmosphere to play in,” Arsenault said.

Besides setting up a rematch of last year’s MAISAD tournament final (the first in the league’s history), the win beefed up the Huskies’ resume for a spot in the New England Prepatory Schools Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class C tournament. A committee of coaches from each class selects eight teams from the 21-team class to participate in the tournament, which will be announced on Sunday.

“For us to beat them twice in the last week was a big boon for our case,” said Jenkins, who led the Huskies to their first and only NEPSAC tournament in 2013.

Kents Hill can strengthen its case substantially with a win over New Hampton School in New Hampton, N.H. But the mere fact that the Huskies should require strong consideration is a boon considering it started the season losing five of its first seven.

Jenkins went into the season knowing he had a good nucleus led by Arsenault in the frontcourt and the 6-foot-1 Guity in the backcourt. But like many prep school teams, which experience a lot of yearly turnover, the Huskies weren’t sure about how a team with players from Maine, Boston, New York City and New Zealand, among other locales, would jell with new personnel, or how much returning players had developed over the summer.

“I have friends at Maranacook (Community High School) who ask me every year how good we’re going to be, and I always say ‘I don’t know,'” said Arsenault, who also plays football and lacrosse at Kents Hill. “That’s the tough part about prep school sports. And we had a little bit of a rough start this year.”

As the season unfolded, Jenkins settled on a six-man rotation that also includes junior point guard Tory Brown, sophomore forward/center Darius Hinds, post-grad swingman Patrick Robertson and reserve senior forward Alex Olivier. The Huskies have gone 9-4 ever since.

“We’ve come a long way in the last month-and-a-half,” Jenkins said.

The Huskies play tough man-to-man defense and, on offense, look to pound the ball inside and have their athletic guards and wings take it to the hoop. The 6-foot-5 Hinds, who grew several inches during the off-season, provides help in the paint for Arsenault, while Robertson, a New Zealand native who led the Huskies with 22 points on Wednesday, and Brown have become more assertive at both ends and made them a more balanced team.

The Huskies have a little extra incentive to win Saturday — revenge, just like they did against Hyde. Whether they get it or not, it’s almost a certainty the game will reach the heights of the last Hyde game.

“We lost to New Hampton in the MAISAD tourney final last year,” Jenkins said. “This year, we split — we won there in OT on a buzzer-beater by two points and they beat us by one point at our place on a last-second shot. It could shape up to be a great game.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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