READFIELD — These Black Bears saved their best for last, both in terms of the season and the regional championship Wednesday.

Top-seeded Maranacook set aside a helter-skelter first half at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams and rolled over No. 7 Traip Academy with two goals after the break, sealing a 3-0 win in the Class C South final. Captains Silas Mohlar and Jackson McPhedran each scored, sending them and classmates to their first state championship game in four years.

Maranacook (16-1-0) will play the winner of the Class C North final between George Stevens and Fort Kent on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Deering High School in Portland.

“We knew (Traip) were a second-half team, so we had to come out strong,” Mohlar said. “It feels good, for sure. We finished a lot better tonight.”

Both teams played a nervy game in the opening 40 minutes, most of which was played in within a 10-yard radius of the center of the park. Traip (11-5-1) tried to settle into the possession game that carried it into the final, while Maranacook was too intent on banging the ball around with little coming from it.

It all changed in the second half, when a higher Black Bear back line borne out of tighter man-marking created two distinct advantages the home side exploited. The Rangers could no longer pick out the passes that built their attacking game, while greater numbers forward had Maranacook poised as a perpetual threat up top.

Freshman striker Wyatt Lambert potted the rebound of a Mohlar shot in the 61st minute to give Maranacook a 2-0 lead, and the center back McPhedran pushed forward on a deep throw-in to rip home Garrett Whitten’s feed six minutes later.

“We played a really terrible first half, and we all knew it,” McPhedran said. “We had to push up to mark and execute, and that really helped. It made them almost step back toward their own goal, which created tons of pressure that they couldn’t handle in the second half.”

“I wanted more pressure on the ball, as far as defensively coming up and marking,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said. “I thought it was proven in the second half. We had more control of the ball — not necessarily passing-wise — but we were getting the ball forward so it gave us more opportunities. That’s what I wanted.”

The final 40 minutes marked Maranacook’s most complete half of soccer in three postseason games.

“It was, because they’re a really good team. That’s a lot better team than a seventh (seed),” Beckwith said. “We had some kids that stepped up and made some plays. It was good to see.”

“We thought we could settle in in the second half, and they just ramped their energy up a little bit,” Traip coach Mike MacLeay added. “The key was their energy. I know (Beckwith) is hard on them and pushes them to go through walls, and it obviously pays off.”

Maranacook opened the scoring through Mohlar in the 12th minute, when his header off a corner kick went to McPhedran along the goal line. McPhedran collected the ball in space and slid a soft ball to Mohlar, and Mohlar finished from 12 yards out with a low drive to the far corner.

Though the rest of the opening half was largely a stalemate, the Black Bears nearly put it away before halftime. In the 39th minute, junior midfielder Aric Belanger was left unchecked at the top of the 18-yard box, but his curler to the far bar was turned out by a diving save from Traip goalkeeper Jayce Nielsen (four saves). Less than a minute later, Lambert had a strike with Nielson out of position, only to have his blistering bid cleared off the line by Traip back Jacob Gagner.

The near-misses set the stage for the second half. In contrast to Saturday’s regional semifinal against Waynflete, when they let the Flyers hang around long enough to force extra time, the Black Bears were in position to finish this one off before full time.

“It’s regionals, so it’s a big stage. It’s new for a lot of guys,” Mohlar said of Maranacook’s unsettled first half. “This feels great. Senior year, it’s huge. I couldn’t be happier than to do it with all of these guys here.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC