AUGUSTA —Kobe Nadeau wears the net around his neck, the most hard-earned accessory he will ever wear in his life. One of the captains of the Lawrence High School boys basketball team, Nadeau and the Bulldogs just beat Skowhegan, 47-40, to win the Class A North championship at the Augusta Civic Center. Nadeau cradles the regional championship trophy in both arms, against his chest.

Nadeau knows the history of Lawrence basketball. He’s in the school’s Folsom Gym every day. He sees the banners. He knows the one that lists regional titles has no 20’s. The last regional title the Bulldogs boys basketball team won came in 1999, before Nadeau and his teammates were born. The point guard of that ’99 team, Josh Berard, has been a mentor to Nadeau, also a Lawrence point guard.

“He knew what potential I had as a player and what potential we had as a team. He really helped us as alumni. He said it was one of the greatest feeling he has to this day,” Nadeau says…

Moments ago, Nadeau hugged his coach, Jason Pellerin, while awaiting his turn to climb the ladder and cut down the nets. Now Nadeau is accepting the Al Halliday Award as the Class A North boys basketball tournament’s most outstanding player. He is the first Lawrence player to win the award since Matt Saunders in 2013. That 2013 team was the last Lawrence team to reach the regional championship, and it lost in heart-breaking, gut-punching fashion, when Hampden’s Nick Gilpin hit a half-court shot at the buzzer. Nadeau watched that game at home on TV with his grandfather. He was 12.

“My heart sank just from a fan’s perspective. I can’t imagine what the seniors felt. I knew I didn’t want to go through that similar situation,” Nadeau says…

There’s 30.3 seconds left in the game, and Nadeau is going to the line to shoot one-and-one. He is not nervous.

“When we played Hampden at our place, I shot two similar free throws and my legs were a little bit shaky. I’d felt that feeling before, and I knew I had to just power through it and knock them down,” Nadeau says.

He sinks them both, the final two of his team-high 12 points. The moment is not too big for Nadeau. He’s already proven that numerous times in this game. In the first minute of the fourth quarter, he dribbled near the top of the key, guarded by Skowhegan’s Marcus Christopher. Nadeau make a stutter step, a pregnant pause, and he drives past Christopher to the right. He’s fouled on the shot, and makes both free throws. A four point Lawrence lead is now six, 30-24.

“He shifted to my left, and I knew I could by him if I put my shoulder to his hip. I knew if if I came to a jump stop and jumped as high as I could, he wasn’t going to get the ball because I knew I could jump higher than him. Luckily he got me from behind and I knocked both free throws down,” Nadeau says…

This Lawrence team began the season 0-4. Who’s thinking about a regional title when they’re 0-4? A win over Erskine Academy, the team Lawrence would later meet in the regional quarterfinals, kickstarted the Bulldogs’ season.

“We were thinking about taking every 32 minutes at a time. That’s been our motto the last two or three years and this year we were able to execute after starting 0-4,” Nadeau says. “That Erskine game gave us a jump start and we were able to win five in a row.”

When Skowhegan cuts the Lawrence lead to three points late in the third quarter, Nadeau makes a shot to push the lead back to five. While he leads the Bulldogs in scoring, he’s setting up teammates along the way. A pass to Gavin Herrin cutting to the basket for the first points of the game. A fastball to Nick Robertson in transition with 3:14 to play in the first quarter, allowing Robertson to catch the ball and pop a three for a 11-2 Bulldogs lead.

“I’m always looking for him in open floor situations. Teams have a hard time finding him just because he knows his spots on the floor where he can knock down shots. He was wide open,” Nadeau says…

What did Nadeau do Friday, to keep himself focused on the game but not tight?

“I slept all day. I just stayed at home. My mom is always on me about getting enough rest,” Nadeau says…

The pregame introductions are over. The Bulldogs huddle in a circle at the top of the key, arms around each other’s shoulders, swaying. Nadeau is about to lead his team into the biggest game of their young lives.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM










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