AUGUSTA — All night long, Kobe Nadeau had hit one giant shot after another, fueling his Lawrence boys basketball team to the dramatic victory it knew from the opening tip it could pull off.

And then, with the game waiting to be decided, he provided one more.

Nadeau scored 18 points, Nick Robertson and Gavin Herrin added 12 apiece, and the fourth-seeded Bulldogs knocked off No. 1 Cony, 63-56, Wednesday to reach the championship game of the Class A North tournament.

“It was going to be a war tonight. The guys had to play really, really hard, and expend a lot of energy,” coach Jason Pellerin said. “I’m just proud of the effort. They’ve worked hard to get to this point, and they didn’t let the moment get by them.”

It’s the first trip to the regional final for Lawrence (12-8) since 2013, and it comes after a two-year stretch in which the Bulldogs won a combined 10 games and missed the postseason each time.

“Honestly, after losing, I don’t even know, countless games the past two years, finally being able to lead a team through the semifinals is big,” Nadeau said. “I’m having a hard time speaking right now.”

For Cony (15-5), which needed a dramatic, come-from-behind effort against Medomak Valley to reach the semifinals, Wednesday night was a screeching halt to a season players and coaches always knew would be special.

“This year was the best year I’ve ever been a part of,” said forward Ashton Cunningham, one of six seniors on the team. “Ever since I moved here freshman year, we’ve had a special group of kids. We always hang out, and even on the court, it’s always right there together, until the end. And this is the end.”

Just as they did against Medomak, Cony fell behind early, as Lawrence grabbed a 16-5 lead in the first five minutes. But the Rams fought back, and the two teams traded the lead eight times in the third quarter before Dakota Dearborn’s 3-pointer with 7:16 to play in the fourth brought Cony within 1 at 52-51.

Then, for more than four minutes, nothing. The two teams fought to a scoreless stalemate, getting stop after stop at each end – until the ball found its way to Nadeau behind the arc from the left side with the clock reaching three minutes to play.

Nadeau had hit four threes already, and he let it fly again, swishing the shot with 2:59 left. It was only a four-point game at 55-51, and there was plenty of time remaining, but from his place in front of the Cony bench, coach T.J. Maines knew it was a dagger.

“Nadeau’s three when they were up 1 was huge,” said Maines, whose team was led by 21 points from Simon McCormick and 19 from Dearborn. “That was a big basket. … We never got momentum going.”

Pellerin said he wasn’t surprised to see Nadeau step up once again.

“Kobe’s one of the best point guards, probably, in the history of Lawrence,” he said. “And I don’t have a problem saying that.”

Lawrence High School’s Nick Robertson can’t strip Cony High School’s Simon McCormick during a tournament basketball game on Wednesday in Augusta. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Luke Briggs drove to the hoop on the next series to help Cony inch closer, but a Jackson Dudley 3-point play put Lawrence up 58-53 with 1:59 left. Cony countered when McCormick hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 to go, but there wasn’t going to be a spirited rally this time. Dylan Martin-Hachey (10 points) drove to make it 60-56 with 1:10 to go, then hit a free throw to make it a five-point lead with 43.9 seconds left.

Cony’s hopes were snuffed out when Nadeau made a quick play after a Matt Wozniak steal, tipping Wozniak’s effort to pass the ball upcourt to Robertson. Robertson was fouled and hit both free throws to ice the result.

“We knew that they get hot really easily and shoot well from behind the arc,” Nadeau said. “We knew it wasn’t over until that buzzer sounds.”

Maines afterward lamented his team’s inability to take command in the final quarter – particularly the stretch when the game was hanging up for grabs.

“I think we had six possessions down 1 in the fourth quarter, and just couldn’t make a basket,” Maines said. “We didn’t turn it over, we got shots up … most of them were 2-point shots that were pretty decent. And we just couldn’t make it.”

Pellerin gave credit to the performances of both his bench players – namely Dylan Coombs, who scored six points, including a pair of free throws with no time left in the third that gave Lawrence the lead for good at 50-48 – and his more role-playing starters – with a focus on Herrin, who grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and kept Cony’s dangerous shooters from getting second chances.

“We got some huge contributions off the bench that allowed us to do this,” Pellerin said. “They were locked in. Great energy on the bench, and we needed all of it.”

While Lawrence moves on to the regional final, Cony sees its tournament run end in the A North semifinals for the third straight season. With McCormick, Dearborn and sharpshooters Kyle Douin and Luke Briggs coming back, the Rams have a bright outlook for next season.

Maines, however, wasn’t ready to move on from the one that just ended.

“As a coaching staff, we went in every single day and enjoyed that hour-and-a-half, two hours that we had with them. Every day,” he said. “I’ve coached for 21 years, that’s not normal. You always have some days where you don’t want to be there. Not a one.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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