FAIRFIELD — With no cheering fans providing energy and emotion, the Winslow High School boys basketball team’s bench has to be the battery. Throughout Thursday’s central Maine Class A/B quarterfinal game at Lawrence High School’s Folsom Gym, the Black Raiders bench clapped hard and fast. Not non-stop, but enough to sustain the players on the court.

“It keeps our bench in it. There’s no energy in this gym besides us. They’re the only energy we’ve got. They’ve got to keep us going,” Winslow senior Reid Gagnon said.

That energy fed Winslow as the Bulldogs made a second half run, cutting a double-digit deficit to two points early in the fourth quarter. That energy was the spark for the Black Raiders late rally, helping Winslow pull away with the 54-45 win.

No. 6 Winslow (7-5) will face the winner of Friday’s game between No. 7 Maine Central Institute and No. 2 Skowhegan in the semifinals. No. 3 Lawrence ends the season at 8-5.

“We have a real tight crew. That’s really what we hang our hat on, our competitive nature and our togetherness, and that will get you through some tough spots,” Winslow coach Ken Lindlof said.

Winslow led by as many as 13 points midway through the second quarter, and led 28-18 at the half. Lawrence cut Winslow’s lead to five points, 34-29, entering the fourth quarter, and a Ryan Bourque free throw cut the Black Raiders lead to 34-32 with 6:31 to play.

Winslow had seen this in the first of two regular season losses to the Bulldogs.

“That’s what happened when we played them at our place. We had a 10-point lead, and it kind of just melted away and we kind of lost our poise,” Lindlof said. “We started to tonight, but we made enough good plays at both ends of the floor.”

“Quite frankly, that was just sheer will. I think it was just effort. We crashed the offensive boards. We turned them over a little bit. We were able to get some odd man rushes. I thought maybe we attacked the middle a little better,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “We didn’t have our A game tonight. Part of it is what Winslow did, but part of it was us. But we fought as much as we could.”

Lawrence’s Zack Nickerson, left, guards Winslow’s Nick Girard during a central Maine tournament game Thursday in Fairfield.(Staff photo by Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel) Buy this Photo

An old-fashioned 3-point play from Jason Reynolds (21 points, 14 rebounds) with 5:43 left put the Black Raiders back in control. Winslow scored its final seven points from the line, going 7 for 9 at the line over the final 2:13. Winslow never trailed, scoring the first seven points of the game.

To Gagnon, holding off Lawrence’s comeback was a sign of how much his team has improved since the season began.

“The beginning of the season, we struggled a little bit. It was a new group of guys and we hadn’t worked together in the past,” said Gagnon, who had 13 points had nine rebounds. “Now that we’ve got everybody comfortable with each other, we really believe in each other. We know where we need to be, and we show up and play as a team.”

Dylan Coombs led Lawrence with 14 points, eight coming late in the fourth quarter when he returned from what initially looked like it could be a knee injury. Zach Nickerson scored 12 points for the Bulldogs. Containing that senior duo was a key to Winslow’s defense, Lindlof said.

“When those two get the ball, you just pray they miss and we don’t foul,” Lindlof said.

With six seniors, Lawrence was a team well-built to handle this season full of adversity, and Pellerin said he was proud of the resiliency his team showed.

“We have a lot of guys who are three-sport athletes. They lost baseball last year, and lacrosse. They lost football this fall. I’ve got 11 football players on my team. They were really looking forward to it,” Pellerin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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