AUGUSTA — The 13-point lead was down to one. It was the perfect opportunity for many teams to crumble.

It was also, however, a moment in which the Lawrence boys basketball team has gotten pretty comfortable of late. Its poise in that situation came through again Friday night, as fourth-seeded Lawrence held off the rally, making plays down the stretch to top No. 7 Skowhegan 47-40 in the Class A North final at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We’re a senior-built team, we have five senior starters, we have three senior captains that have been on the team for three years,” said guard Kobe Nadeau, one of those captains. “So there’s quite a bit of experience there.”

Lawrence improved to 13-8, and is headed to the Class A state championship game for the first time since 1999 – and after winning only 10 games over the past two seasons.

Nadeau led the way in the victory with 12 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Gavin Herrin and Adam Duprey added 10.

“I’m just really proud of these kids,” coach Jason Pellerin said. “I’ve known these kids, a lot of these kids, since they were in third and fourth grade. To watch them get to this point is just really special.”

Skowhegan (10-11) came one game away from taking its spirited run to the state final for the first time since 1998. Chase Carey had 15 points – all in the second half – Marcus Christopher added 11 and Matush Prokop scored nine for the Indians.

Skowhegan had the ball with a chance to take the lead or tie three times in the third quarter and cut the lead to 2 at one point in the fourth, but couldn’t complete the rally.

“Our guys came to play defense well. The intensity we struggled with at first, to start the game,” coach Tom Nadeau said. “We adjusted too late, we dug ourselves too deep.”

That intensity was giving the Indians fits early on, as Lawrence’s man-to-man defense suffocated Skowhegan ballhandlers and was dominating a game that stood 13-6 after the first quarter and was 21-8 with 3:41 left in the second quarter. But Skowhegan found a rhythm, scoring 13 of the next 14 points and working its way to a 22-21 deficit with 4:30 to go in the third.

But Lawrence, which handled a fast start by Erskine in the quarters and then shook off No. 1 Cony’s tries for a rally in the semis, held tough again. Duprey had a tip-in and Nadeau hit a pair of free throws and then a jumper to help the Bulldogs take a 28-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

“Even if they’re whittling the lead down, you’ve got to believe that you can continue to get stops,” Pellerin said. “When that’s the foundation of who you are, that becomes your ultimate focus. The fact that the lead’s getting smaller just doesn’t faze you as much.”

The teams went back-and-forth in the fourth, and the score was 32-28 when another senior captain, Nick Robertson, stepped up for Lawrence, draining a 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 7 with 3:33 to play.

“I think we play better in the moment, because it just keeps us going and we have a lot of good players that handle the moment,” Robertson said. “I like close games, personally, because it’s a better atmosphere.”

Skowhegan wasn’t finished, cutting the gap to 37-35 on a Christopher basket with 1:32 to go. This time, Lawrence’s third senior captain made his move. Gavin Herrin converted a 3-point play to make it 40-35 with 1:16 left, then followed a Skowhegan turnover with a pair of free throws with 52.3 seconds left to ice the win.

It was an example of the Bulldogs following the same formula from their earlier wins – big plays from throughout the roster.

“We’re that type of team,” said Pellerin. “In order for us to be successful, we need contributions from everybody.”

Skowhegan nearly kept its run going, getting a jolt from Carey, who scored all eight of the Indians’ points in the third quarter and five of their first six in the fourth.

“We talked about guys needing to step up, and he answered the call,” Nadeau said. “(It’s) a guy getting hot and a guy saying ‘You know what, I don’t want my season to end tonight.’ ”

Christopher said he was happy to see his team make a run in a game that appeared to be slipping away.

“I’m really proud of the guys that stepped up, and the plays we made over the last few weeks of the season that got us to this point,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of games this year where we needed to fight back. … It was awesome to see us step up tonight, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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