FARMINGTON — All season long, Gardiner boys basketball coach Aaron Toman has wanted to see four quarters from his team. On Wednesday, in the preliminary round of the central Maine basketball tournament, he got them.

And none of them were better than the fourth.

Kalvin Catchings scored 29 points, 23 of which came in the second half, and Braden Dorogi added 13 as the ninth-seeded Tigers took down No. 8 Mt. Blue 71-58.

Gardiner (4-9) will face No. 1 Maranacook in the quarterfinals on Friday.

“Credit to our boys for really coming together in the second half. I want to say that was the best half we’ve had all year long,” Toman said. “Both from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint, just playing together. I’m really proud of the way the boys came together and the way they finished the game.”

Zach Poisson had 21 points and Hayden Dippner had 11 for the Cougars (2-9), who trailed by only one point early in the fourth before the floodgates opened.

“They threw us off a little bit with the box-and-one on Chandler Briggs (nine points, none in the second half), but we still got good looks. We just didn’t knock down shots,” Mt. Blue coach Troy Norton said. “I think the difference was they got to the free-throw line a ton, and they made their free throws.”

This was the sort of effort that eluded Gardiner often throughout a bumpy season, as the Tigers often found themselves in games that were neck-and-neck early and anything but late. Once again, Gardiner was in the position of being in a tight game early — the Tigers trailed 31-27 at halftime, and led only 46-42 after three — and needing a push to finish the job late, especially when Jayden Meader hit a three at the start of the fourth to cut the lead to one.

Gardiner bounced right back with a Dorogi three that pushed the lead back up to four, and this time there was no stopping them — and Catchings, a sophomore forward, in particular. Catchings drove for a basket, then knocked down a jumper from the free-throw line, and then slipped a pretty pass in to Wyatt Chadwick (11 points) underneath the basket, and suddenly it was a 10-point lead with around five and a half minutes to go.

Catchings kept going, converting a 3-point play that made it 58-45 and prompted a Mt. Blue timeout with 4:10 left.

Mt. Blue’s Evans Sterling, right, battles for a loose ball with Gardiner’s Deon Cheers during a Class A/B prelim game of the central Maine basketball tournament. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It’s what we needed today,” said Catchings, who also had nine rebounds and two blocks. “I had to step up and get this win for me and my teammates. … Once they start falling for me, they don’t stop.”

“The sky’s the limit with Kal,” Toman said. “Everyone knows he’s got great potential, he puts a lot of time in, he works at his game. But tonight, what I saw was growth from him in that he wasn’t settling for looks. He was taking great shots, and when he takes his great shots he can be tough to stop.”

Toman has also touted the abundance of role players on his team, and while the narrative about playing four quarters changed, this one held firm. Gardiner again got big efforts down the stretch from its supporting players, including Dorogi and Chadwick, who combined for five steals, Ryan Moore (12 points) and Taylor Tweedy.

“This was a team win, with a capital ‘T’,” Toman said.

John McDonough disinfects the benches before a Class A/B preliminary game between Mt. Blue and Gardiner on Wednesday night in Farmington. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It all meant overcoming a Mt. Blue team that started hot and got key baskets through the first three quarters from Poisson, Dippner and Briggs. But once Gardiner shifted its focus to Briggs, the Cougars found it hard to maintain a rhythm.

“They went in a certain defense and they just really shut us down,” Poisson said. “We couldn’t do much after that. … It can be tough (to bounce back). We just needed energy. It can be tough, but we should have picked up the energy, somebody could step up, and it just didn’t happen.”

Mt. Blue is poised to be back next season. Poisson, Dippner and Briggs are all sophomores, and leading rebounder Evans Sterling, who left the game with an injury in the second quarter, is a freshman.

“We struggled all year with finding that third and fourth scorer. That’s what we need to build going forward,” Norton said. “We are young, but losing doesn’t feel good whether you’re old or young.”

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