GARDINER — The Gardiner boys basketball team will try to put Friday night’s regular season finale against Oceanside in the bottom drawer and forget about it.

The Tigers were never in this one as the Mariners pulled away late in the first quarter and cruised to a comfortable 69-56 win.

They’ll enter the Class A North tournament at 15-3 and the third seed. Gardiner finishes at 10-8 and will be seeded fourth in the same tournament.

The Mariners graduated seven players from the team that reached the Class A state final a year ago and have reformed nicely with several new players.

“We’d like to make another run like we did last year and hopefully do well and hopefully beat (top-seeded) Medomak,” senior point guard Nate Raye said.

The Mariners got a big game from Cooper Wirkala, who finished with a game-high 23 points — all on drives to the basket. The Tiger defense had trouble containing the lanky 6-foot-4 sophomore who reached the basket with a change-of-pace dribble. All six of his baskets were layups, while he made 11 of 14 free throws.

“He’s got all the tools,” Oceanside coach Matt Breen said. “He’s played point guard all the way up through. He’s really comfortable handling the ball. He’s a great spot up shooter but he hasn’t been using that at all. He’s been using his dribble penetration to get to the rim.”

Cooper scored on three straight drives spanning the first and second quarters to give Oceanside 21-7 lead. The Tigers had no answers as they turned the ball over 18 times in the game and shot just 7 for 30 (23 percent) in the first half.

“They forced 17 turnovers early,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “We just couldn’t recover from that.”

The Tigers posted key back-to-back wins over Hampden and Oxford Hills just two weeks ago, but couldn’t get anything going in the first half, which ended with the Mariners in front 36-18.

Gardiner made a run in the third quarter as five different players scored to cut the lead to 42-32.

Isaiah Magee had all six of his points in the run while Cole Heaberlin scored five of his 11. Cooper answered with four straight free throws to make it 48-35 at the break. The Mariners spread the floor and scored layups or went to the free throw line, making 13 foul in the final period.

“We’ve definitely improved,” Breen said. “We’re finding out stride. It’s been a different kid stepping up each night They’ve really come together and they’re playing as a team now.”

Hunter Chasse led the Tigers with 18 points, including three 3-pointers while Connor McGuire added nine points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.