The Valley High School boys basketball team is making its 10th appearance in the Class D state championship game since 1998. Easton, on the other hand, hasn’t played for a Gold Ball since the dying days of disco, in 1980. Easton hasn’t won a state title since 1965. Valley coach Luke Hartwell said to keep the Bears from breaking that long championship drought, his Cavaliers will need to be on their game.

“To win a state championship, you have to play your best and we certainly have to do that on Saturday,” Hartwell said.

Valley (20-0) will take on Easton (19-2) at approximately 2:45 Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Cavs still have a few players from the team that was state runner-up to Hodgdon two years ago, including tri-captains Cody Laweryson, Luke Malloy and Collin Miller. Valley has rarely been tested this season. Just two opponents — Richmond in the regular season finale and Seacoast Christian in the Class D South championship — stayed within 10 points of the Cavs.

“We’re doing a good job of being mentally tough and just battling through games. We didn’t have our best (regional) tournament, we can definitely play better,” Laweryson, who averages 24 points and 12 rebounds per game, said.

Laweryson averaged just under 27 points per game and sank 13 3-pointers in the Class D South tournament. He won the John Messina Award as the tournament’s most valuable player. Laweryson is just one of a few offensive weapons for Valley. Miller (12 ppg, 10 rpg), Austin Cates (11 ppg, four steals per game) and Malloy (six ppg, seven assists per game) can give the Cavs a scoring boost, too.

“We’re staying together. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed this year is our chemistry’s the best it’s been since two years ago when we went to states,” Hartwell said. “That comes with experience. I think it comes with having seniors on the team. Last year, we had a lot of youth in many areas. This year, we’ve had a lot of maturation and growth with our team. That’s going to be important on Saturday.”

In Easton, Valley faces an opponent that while new to the state championship game stage, certainly worked hard to get here. The top-seeded Bears needed overtime twice in the Class D North tournament, first to beat Washburn in the semifinals, 52-48, then in the regional final win over Southern Aroostook, 57-52.

“They’re really skilled. When we watched their games, I realized how athletic they are, and how well they can box out and really stick shots. They’re a well-rounded team,” Miller said of Easton.

The Bears are led by a quartet of players, tri-captains Drew Sotomayor, Logan Halvorson, and Jacob Flewelling, and Jordan Doody, who won the William Warner Award as Class D North tournament MVP. All four scored in double figures in the regional championship game, led by Doody’s 20 points.

Like Valley in 2014, Easton has a first year head coach, Manny Martinez, a Central Aroostook graduate.

“They have four guys who score in double figures,” Hartwell said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, even though Manny Martinez is a first-year coach. He’s a product of Tim Brewer and Central Aroostook. His kids play until the final bell and that’s why this will be a tough game.”

Whichever team wins, its head coach will join the exclusive club of people who won titles as a player and a coach. Hartwell was a member of four state championship teams as a player at Valley, while Martinez played on a pair of state championship teams at Central Aroostook. As a junior, the 5-foot-7 Martinez hit the game winning shot, a running jumper over the arms of 6-foot-10 Marc Zaharchuk with a second to play, giving the Panthers a 54-53 win over Richmond in the 2008 Class D championship game.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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