AUGUSTA — Temple Academy couldn’t have played a worse third quarter. And it couldn’t have played a better fourth.

Opening things up by finally establishing a presence in the paint, the second-seeded Bereans found their outside touch and pulled away in the closing minutes for a 57-52 win over No. 3 Valley in a Class D South boys basketball semifinal Wednesday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

Temple (15-5), which won its first tournament game in program history on Saturday, is now headed to its first regional final on Saturday against No. 1 Forest Hills. Temple and Valley split a pair of regular-season matchups, but the Bereans were focused on last season’s regional quarterfinal elimination at the hands of the Cavaliers.

Valley’s Spencer Hunnewell, left, and Thomas Bishop battle for the ball with Temple’s Noah Shepherd during a Class D South semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“We made history,” said Temple senior Ilija Ivkovic, who scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “Valley kicked us out last year, so we paid them back this year. It was a great game. They’re a great team with great players.”

The game was tied on four different occasions in the fourth quarter alone, for the final time at 46-46 when junior Nathan Riportella connected from behind the 3-point arc with 2:50 remaining to give Temple the lead for good. The Bereans then scored six of the game’s final eight points, including two Riportella free throws with 13 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.

“This is my third year coming here, my first year starting, so I had a little bit of nerves,” Riportella said. “I just played my game. We played our game together. We didn’t think we’re better than what we are.”

The late-game heroics came after a third quarter in which Temple managed only six points — on field goals from Riportella and Oscar Camarena (10 points) — while allowing Valley (14-6) to open up a slim four-point lead through 24 minutes.

Even Temple’s head coach, Scott Corey, was at a loss for words to describe how differently things had gone for his team in the final period.

“We scored more points than they did, I don’t know what else to tell you,” Corey said. “There were a couple of shots we took, where you go, ‘What are you — no, no, no! and then ‘Good shot!’ when it goes in. I really don’t know what to tell you. Valley’s a quality team, and that’s a quality group of young men in our locker room. They stayed together.”

Foul trouble for Temple — four fouls each to big men Ivkovic and Nick Blaisdell — had the Bereans out of sync. But when they finally re-committed themselves to pounding the paint with Ivkovic, Blaisdell and Stevo Kruta, it touched off a 12-7 run that handed them the lead for good.

Temple scored on six of eight possessions midway through the final period, negating an impressive fourth quarter from Valley’s Joey Thomas, who scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the period.

“We had them in foul trouble, but when they got all their starters back in, it was a tougher matchup for us,” Valley coach Curtis Miller said. “We knew it was going to be a one- or two-point game going into it. Everyone knew that.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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