BOX SCORE

Maranacook 59 Freeport 57

F- 16 11 13 17- 57
M- 13 13 17 16- 59

F- Wagner 7-1-21, Arsenault 6-0-13, Cockburn 2-2-7, Thomas 2-1-5, Helie 1-0-3, Holt 1-0-3, Strong 1-0-3, Morris 1-0-2

M- Worster 9-1-20, Dupont 3-8-15, McClure 3-6-12, Cormier 4-0-9, Boucher 1-0-3

3-pointers:
F (11) Wagner 6, Arsenault, Cockburn, Helie, Holt, Strong 1
M (4) Boucher, Cormier, Dupont, Worster 1

Turnovers:
F- 20
M- 11

FTs
F: 4-7
M: 15-17

PORTLAND—Normally, when a number one seed takes on a number eight seed in a boys’ basketball quarterfinal tournament game, it isn’t a game for long.

That was not the case Friday evening at the Portland Exposition Building.

That’s because the Freeport Falcons were no typical eight seed and the top-ranked Maranacook Black Bears needed every one of the game’s 1,920 seconds to survive and advance in a thrilling Class B South quarterfinal round contest that won’t soon be forgotten.

Not in Freeport and not in Readfield.

The Falcons, despite having three starters pick up two fouls apiece in the first quarter, came right out and proved they belonged by taking a 16-13 lead.

When Freeport sank three consecutive 3-pointers in the second period, it held a surprising 25-17 advantage, but the Black Bears battled back and drew within a point, 27-26, on a late 3-pointer from senior captain Skyler Boucher.

The Falcons went up by six, 33-27, on a putback from sophomore Colby Arsenault, but Maranacook, playing its up-tempo style, scored 12 consecutive points to go on top and after three quarters, the Black Bears held a 43-40 lead.

Freeport refused to wilt after going down by five in the fourth period, taking a momentary 49-48 lead when senior Gabe Wagner set up senior Tre Morris for a layup with 4:59 to go.

Maranacook retook the lead, but with 2:50 remaining, Wagner’s 3-pointer put the Falcons on top one more time, 54-53.

Again, the Black Bears answered, as junior Joey Dupont sank two free throws, then added two more.

Wagner had one final heroic moment left, draining a game-tying 3 with 20 seconds to play, but instead of milking the clock for a final shot, Maranacook raced into the paint and Dupont scored on a layup with 6 seconds to go.

Freeport had a chance to tie or win it, but a desperation pass to Wagner resulted in a collision and a turnover and the Black Bears ran out the clock and prevailed, 59-57.

Wagner had 21 points, but it wasn’t enough, as the Black Bears improved to 17-2, advanced to meet No. 5 Lake Region (9-10) in the semifinals Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., at the Expo and brought the Falcons’ season to a close at 10-9.

“There’s not a lot of time to reflect, but we talked how great an experience it was,” said Freeport coach Bill Ridge. “We went out and executed how we wanted, but we just fell short.”

A thrill ride

Maranacook suffered a close loss to eventual regional champion Cape Elizabeth in last year’s semifinals and has been dominant this winter, winning 16 times and falling just twice, at Lake Region way back on Dec. 10 and at Cony two days after Christmas in a game the Black Bears posted 89 points. In fact, Maranacook surpassed the 80-point plateau six different times and even scored over 100 once.

Freeport had high hopes entering the season, but after a 3-1 start, dropped five of six. After a four-game win streak, the Falcons went 2-2 down the stretch and closed with a loss at Lake Region, but still managed to be the last team in the regional field.

The teams didn’t meet during the regular season and had no playoff history.

Friday, in front of a good-sized crowd, especially on the Freeport side, they made some history and produced a memorable contest.

Freeport had to endure foul difficulty, but the Falcons managed to take the lead through eight minutes.

Arsenault opened the scoring 27 seconds in, making a layup off a pass from Wagner.

After Maranacook got on the board on a driving layup from junior Tim Worster, Wagner knocked down a 3.

Worster made another layup, but with 5:27 to go in the first period, Wagner sank another 3 for an 8-4 lead.

The momentum only lasted 15 seconds, however, as Wagner picked up his second foul and had to sit the remainder of the frame.

Arsenault and Morris would also be whistled for two fouls before the quarter was over, but Freeport hung tough.

After Worster made another layup and Dupont sank two free throws to tie it for the Black Bears, a layup from junior Elias Thomas put the Falcons back on top.

Junior Cash McClure tied it again with two free throws, but again, Freeport answered on an Arsenault layup.

With 2:41 remaining in the quarter, Maranacook went on top for the first time, as Worster sank a 3, but Thomas fed Arsenault for a layup and sophomore Blaine Cockburn hit two free throws to give the Falcons a 16-13 advantage after eight minutes.

Freeport then lived and died from the 3-point stripe in the second period, building an eight-point lead before the Black Bears erased almost all of it.

A jumper from junior Casey Cormier and a layup from McClure put Maranacook back in the lead, but in an 85-second span, Arsenault, junior Cam Strong and senior Liam Holt all sank 3s to put the Falcons ahead, 25-17.

After two McClure free throws, Cockburn floated home a shot with his left hand to restore the eight-point advantage, but Freeport wouldn’t score the final 3:40 of the half.

After Worster scored on a finger roll off the glass, Dupont made two free throws and a 3-point shot from Boucher pulled the Black Bears within a single point, 27-26, at the half.

The third period saw the Falcons again try to seize control, but Maranacook roared to life in response.

Wagner made a free throw eight seconds into the second half and junior Alex Helie added a 3.

After Worster made a foul shot for the Black Bears, Arsenault scored on a putback for a 33-27 Freeport lead.

The Black Bears responded with a 12-0 run, sparked by a layup from Dupont.

McClure added a runner in the lane, Worster took a pass from McClure on the fastbreak and tied it with a layup, then Cormeir scored on a runner, Cormier stole the ball and fed McClure for a layup and with 3:53 to go in the quarter, Cormier made a layup after a steal to put Maranacook on top, 39-33.

With 2:24 left, a floater from Arsenault ended the run and the Falcons’ 4-minute, 2-second drought, but Worster drove for a layup, then Worster hit a runner in the lane for the Black Bears’ biggest lead, 43-35.

In the final minute, Wagner drove for a layup, then Wagner hit a 3 and just like that, it was a one-possession contest heading to the fourth period.

There, Freeport would threaten to shock the world, but Maranacook responded like the champion it hopes to become and eked out a victory.

After McClure started the final stanza with two free throws, Wagner answered with a 3, but after a Wagner potential go-ahead 3 went in-and-out, Dupont hit a 3 at the other end to make it 48-43.

With 5:54 left, Thomas went to the line with a chance to tie it, but he made just one of two attempts.

Then, with 4:59 remaining, Wagner set up Morris for a layup and the lead, 49-48.

Undaunted, back came the Black Bears 12 seconds later, going on top on a Cormier 3.

With 3:33 on the clock, after a pair of Wagner offensive rebounds retained possession, Thomas scored on a putback to tie the score, 51-51.

Again, Maranacook immediately answered, as Worster knocked down a contested jumper with 3:08 left to put the Black Bears back in the lead by two.

The next blow to be delivered in the heavyweight bout was by Wagner, who took a pass from Holt (after he rebounded his own missed free throw) and calmly sank a 3 with 2:50 to play, making it Freeport 54 Maranacook 53.

But again, the Black Bears refused to buckle and 18 seconds later, Dupont made two foul shots.

After Arsenault missed a 3 for the Falcons, Dupont was fouled again and with 1:06 remaining, he again sank both free throws for a 57-54 lead.

Freeport tried to answer, but Wagner’s 3 went in-and-out.

Then, after Dupont missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Falcons had another chance and Wagner made it count, getting a sliver of room on the right side and burying a 3 to make it 57-57 with 20 seconds to play.

And one final time, Maranacook answered.

Instead of stalling and holding for a final shot, or instead of taking a timeout to diagram a potential game-winner, the Black Bears went to the hoop, as McClure got into the paint, drew the defense, fed Dupont and Dupont went up and laid the ball in with 6 seconds to go to give Maranacook the lead for good.

“I saw (Wagner) hit the shot, but we knew we had a chance to score,” said Dupont. “We went down, played smart, Cash drove to the hoop, dished to me and I hit the quick layup to give us the lead.”

“We shot that last one a little too early, but we’ll take it,” said Black Bears’ coach Travis Magnusson.

“Credit to (Maranacook),” Ridge said. “They stuck with what they do. Make or miss, they go in transition. They did it again. It was natural for them, just how they play.”

The clock drifted down to 3.8 seconds before Freeport was able to call timeout and after the Falcons set up, Magnusson called timeout as well.

When play finally resumed, Holt inbounded the ball under his basket and tried to throw a long pass to Wagner, who appeared to have a step on a defender.

Wagner made contact with Dupont and stumbled, but the whistle never blew and the ball rolled out of bounds off Wagner with 1.3 seconds showing.

“I knew they were going to go long because they needed a quick shot, so I went back when they threw it and I got a little tip and it went out of bounds, our ball,” said Dupont.

“We knew pretty much what they were going to do, so that helped us,” said Magnusson.

“We had a few options there, but throwing something up for Gabe is a pretty good bet,” said Ridge. “He’d been hot in the fourth quarter. If he came down with it, he’d have time for a dribble and a shot.”

The Black Bears still had to get the ball in to ice it and Boucher did the honors, throwing a long pass ahead to Dupont in the front court.

Dupont cradled the ball, the horn sounded and Maranacook celebrated its palpitating 59-57 victory.

“That was a great moment, catching (the ball) to end the game,” said Dupont.

“It’s a team win. We had a lot of stretches where we had to bring intensity. We wanted to make them play faster than they like. We pressured them and they couldn’t keep up. We knew it would be a tough game. They’re one of the best teams we’ll play. Stopping Wagner was a focal point. He made some great shots. We had to make him work for them. With our backs against the wall, we always fight back and never give up. I’ve never been in a game this close in the tournament. This was fun.”

“It was a really good game,” Magnusson said. “We knew Freeport was a really good team. We did not get a favor with our first round matchup. They’re athletic and shoot the ball well. We had to make smart decisions at the end to win it. We didn’t play our best by any means, but we survived it. We just kind of hung on. I’m really proud of the guys. I’m excited to move on.”

Worster paced the Black Bears with 20 points. He also had four rebounds and a pair of assists.

Dupont came up huge as well with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals.

McClure added 12 points and four assists, Cormier had nine points and three steals and Boucher had three points and seven rebounds.

Maranacook only turned the ball over 11 times and sank a critical 15-of-17 free throws.

The Black Bears will be tested in the semifinals by a Lake Region squad which beat them, 75-68, in the regular season.

“Now, we have to get ready for Lake Region,” said Magnusson. “They beat us and it wasn’t that close. They were up 18 at one point. They’re really big and very good. We’ll have to play our best to play with them.”

Valiant effort

Wagner bowed out with a game-high 21 points. He made six 3-pointers and also had eight rebounds.

Arsenault also wound up in double figures with 13 points. Cockburn added seven points, Thomas had five (to go with nine rebounds), Helie, Holt and Strong all had three and Morris finished with two.

“It was nice to see the seniors step up and have good games,” Ridge said. “Gabe and Tre picked up two fouls early, but they played smart and they were the catalysts in the second half.”

The Falcons had a 36-23 rebounding edge and made 11 3-pointers to Maranacook’s four, but they shot 10 fewer free throws (going 4-of-7) and committed 20 turnovers.

“We had a chance to see (Maranacook) a few times this year and they’re good,” Ridge said. “They have three or four guys who can really fill it up and they took turns getting hot tonight.

“That was as exciting of a tournament game we’ve seen in a long time. We had guys step up and hit huge shots for us. That experience alone, getting a chance to knock down a shot like that in front of a big crowd going crazy, those are really cool memories these guys will get to take. (The Freeport crowd was) awesome. Really supportive. They want the best for these kids. We’ve come to expect that.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of. The seniors can go out feeling like they really battled. Hopefully a tough loss like this fuels the fire for the underclassmen. We knew it would be a roller-coaster this year after not having much back from last year’s team. Some good young pieces came along. We had some injuries over the course of the season. (Senior) Heath (Cockburn), probably our best on-ball defender on the perimeter, found out he needed emergency surgery for appendicitis, but we built toward the finish.”

The Falcons have to say goodbye to six seniors: Heath Cockburn, Holt, Morris, Wagner, Harrison Bowen and Adam Ulrickson, but will be starting from a strong place next winter.

You’ll be hearing from them again.

“We have eight returners and Blaine, Colby, Elias and Alex and Cam Strong got a lot of minutes this year, so that will be good,” Ridge said.

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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