Cony’s Dakota Dearborn gets sandwiched by Medomak defenders Parker Morrison, right, Brandon Starr and Trevor Brown during a Class A North semifinal Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

His Cony boys basketball team had just gotten over the hump and made it to the Class A North final after three straight semifinal exits. So how did T.J. Maines’s Rams celebrate?

By getting back to business.

“As soon as they went in the locker room, it was ‘We’ve got to get one more. We’ve got to get one more,’ ” Maines said. “That’s their mentality. We’re not celebrating. We have bigger plans.”

Plans that now include a showdown with No. 1 seed Hampden Academy, which pulled off its second straight escape in the tournament. After edging No. 8 Mt. Blue 57-54, the Broncos reached the final by stunning No. 5 Brewer 54-52, getting the go-ahead three-point play with 22 seconds left and then holding on as the Witches’ attempt to tie hit off rim in the final seconds.

Now the teams meet again in a matchup that seemed to be in the cards throughout the season. In addition to being the top two seeds in the tournament, Cony and Hampden took first and second, respectively, in the preseason Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A coaches’ poll.

Hampden took the two regular-season contests, winning first 79-62 in Hampden and then 81-76 in Augusta. And Maines knows the Rams will have their hands full once again.

“They’re really well-coached,” he said. “They have size, and they have (Bryce) Lausier, who’s as good a player as there is. … It’s going to take a great effort on our part to be successful.”

The one the Rams turned in Wednesday night should suffice. After what Maines and his players called a sub-standard effort against Lawrence, Cony was back to looking like itself in the semifinals against Medomak Valley, hitting open looks, causing commotion on defense and taking advantage enough in transition to pull away from the Panthers. After Medomak took a 15-14 lead, Cony went on a 19-3 run and never trailed by single digits again.

It looked like Cony basketball from December and January, which was Maines’s message to the team going in.

“Be us. That’s what we put on the board tonight,” he said. “On offense, all it said was ‘Be us.’ Usually it’s three things. (It was) be who we are. Embrace what Cony basketball is, and let’s go and show people what we do.”

The biggest difference, however, came on the defensive end. And to get his team tuned and ready for the Panthers, Maines called in an expert — his father, Tom, who won 369 games and three Class A titles as a master of the full-court press.

“He brings in a lot of intensity,” forward Luke Briggs added. “It’s great to have a Hall of Famer like that come in and help us out. He was definitely a big factor in our defensive play this game.”

He knows that defense is going to be tested tonight.

“In order to change pace, you’ve got to have a dominant player,” T.J. Maines said. “Lausier has an ability to do it.”

Lausier was terrific in the first win over Mt. Blue, but the Broncos had to get the winning basket without their senior star after he fouled out late. No matter; sophomore center T.J. Henaghen gathered an offensive rebound and calmly put it back while drawing a foul, then hit the ensuing free throw. Moments later, the Hampden players were celebrating.

“I was really happy with our composure,” coach Russ Bartlett said after the victory. “We showed a lot of fight tonight.”

Hampden wasn’t challenged often during its 17-1 regular season, which included a 16-0 mark against Class A teams. But with plenty of adversity thrown their way this postseason, the Broncos have passed the tests.

“Both games, we’ve been behind and found a way to win,” he said. “We haven’t had to play from behind much this year, so you’re curious how your teams will respond to it. But I thought we showed a lot of toughness in both games.”

An example was the 6-7 Henaghen, who was admittedly nervous before the first game against Mt. Blue, but far more relaxed versus Brewer. He scored a game-high 18 points, while Lausier had 13 and Brandon Cole had 10.

“Today, he looked tourney-savvy, I thought,” Bartlett said.

Now Hampden turns its attention to handling the Cony pressure.

“If we can do a good job of valuing the basketball, I like our chances,” he said. “If we turn it over, then they’re going to beat us. … Probably, the number’s somewhere between 15 and 20. If it gets over 20, they’re probably going to beat you. If you keep it to 15, then, probably, you win.”

It’ll be the Broncos’ third time seeing it, which Bartlett hopes will be an advantage.

“The first time, it’s overwhelming,” he said. “I would hope we’ll show some composure because we’ve seen it. But at the same point, we’ve only seen it twice.”

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