BANGOR — The Maine Central Institute boys basketball team hasn’t been a stranger to the Class B North tournament in recent years, but the Huskies have made short visits — bowing out after just one game in their last few appearances.

On Saturday morning at the Cross Insurance Center, MCI rallied for their biggest tournament win in years, overcoming an eight-point halftime deficit to beat Oceanside, 58-52, in overtime.

No. 5 MCI (15-4) will face either No. 1 Hermon or No. 8 Presque Isle in the semifinals Wednesday at 3:35 p.m. No. 4 Oceanside ends the season at 13-6. MCI advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Maine Central Institute’s Jaroslav Ruta, center, gets up for a rebound as Oceanside’s Cooper Wirkala defends during a Class B North quarterfinal game Saturday in Bangor. Photo by Jennifer Bechard

“It was amazing. I didn’t know what to say,” said MCI senior Jaroslav Ruta, who came off the bench to score a game-high 22 points with 11 boards. “This could be my last game, so I put in everything I’ve got.”

Joe Cloutier’s elbow jumper with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave MCI a 43-41 lead. Cooper Wirkala (18 points) hit a layup with 28 seconds left to tie the game at 43-43. MCI’s Daniel Garamvolgyi’s jumper as time expired was short, sending the game to OT.

It was all Huskies in overtime. MCI scored the first six points of the extra period, taking a 49-43 lead with 2:15 left on a Gavin McArthur layup. The Mariners cut the deficit to three points, 51-48, on a pair of Wirkala free throws with 1:32 to play,  but that’s as close as Oceanside got.

Down 25-17 at the half, MCI needed a wakeup call. Open shots didn’t fall in the first half, and the Mariners outworked the Huskies for 50/50 balls and rebounds. Oceanside grabbed 23 boards in the first half to MCI’s 14.

“Frankly, that’s been our Achilles. For as big as we are, at times we don’t get after it with rebounds. That’s effort, and sometimes it’s execution. We just didn’t get it done,” MCI coach Josh Tardy said. “We did a better job in the second half, although I still think there’s plays out there that we’d like to have that.”

MCI cut Oceanside’s lead in half, 33-29, entering the fourth quarter. Hayden Caldwell’s fast break layup on a pass from McArthur tied the game at 41-41 with 1:26 left. The basket was one of many the Huskies made in transition, beating Oceanside’s full-court pressure.

“We’re pretty good against pressure. That sometimes is our best offense. We just have to attack. We get good spacing and guys finish. We didn’t finish in the first half. We finished in the second half,” Tardy said.

Added Cloutier: “We had to step up our intensity. We came out a little flat. Our offense wasn’t flowing … We said, we’re faster than them. Why not bust out and take advantage of it?”

Cloutier’s elbow jumper with just under a minute left gave the Huskies their first lead since early in the second quarter, but Wirkala answered. The Oceanside high-scorer was kept in check for much of the game by MCI’s triangle-and-two defense. Wirkala scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including all nine of the Mariners overtime points.

“It wasn’t anything we shouldn’t have been able to handle,” Oceanside coach Matt Breen said of MCI’s defensive strategy. “We’ve got other players who can step up and make plays. We were doing it to a point, and then we lost our composure a little bit.”

Keeping Wirkala in check was pivotal, Tardy said.

MCI’s Daniel Garamvolgyi, middle, tries to squeeze through Oceanside defenders Trevor Reed, left, and Jaden Martin during a Class B North quarterfinal game Saturday in Bangor. Photo by Jennifer Bechard

“It seemed to get Cooper off his stride. He probably still ended up with 100. Who knows? He ages coaches. He’s a special player,” Tardy said.

For Oceanside, this game goes on the list of Cross Insurance Center heartbreaks. The Mariners are now 0-4 in tournament games in this building. Those losses include two overtime games, a loss on a buzzer-beating putback to Winslow last season, and another close loss to Winslow.

“We were doing all right. We were up eight. We were trying to spread them out, and I was trying to get penetration. We’d had plenty of success penetrating against them when they were going one on one,” Breen said. “We kind of started going east and west instead of trying to score the basketball. It just comes down to execution, and they just executed better down the stretch.”

Jack Lombardo added 11 points for Oceanside. Trevor Reed had 14 rebounds for the Mariners.


Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM









Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: