WINTHROP — On a bigger stage, a state championship stage, they’d be talking about the Winthrop boys basketball team’s comeback for years. It would get a catchy nickname, and maybe it still will. There is no state championship game this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but the way the Ramblers closed out the central Maine Class C/D title game against Madison on Friday night was worthy of any trophy you’ve got. In Winthrop, they’ll still be talking about this win for years.

Trailing the Bulldogs by 17 points with four and a half minutes to play, Winthrop closed the game with a 20-0 run to take a 52-49 win and the regional championship.

Gavin Perkins hit a 10-foot jumper with 16 seconds left to give Winthrop the lead, its first since a 1-0 cushion in the game’s first minute, capping the frantic rally. Perkins sank a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left, and when Madison’s desperation 3-point try was short as the game ended, the Ramblers rally was complete.

“Coach (Todd MacArthur) said make a move and do what you do. I got help from the boys. They spread it out. If they didn’t spread out like coach wanted them do, then I wouldn’t have a shot,” said Perkins, who scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth. “We weren’t playing the best, but we always have that mentality, never give up.”

Cameron Cobb’s bucket with with just under five minutes left gave Madison a 49-32 lead, and MacArthur wasn’t thinking comeback. He was thinking stop the bleeding.

“Honestly? Honestly I thought we were down and out. But there’s a lot of pride in our program, and these kids know the culture of our program in terms of  winning. In order to win, you can’t give up. One of the things I said to them was fight to the end. Every dang possession, fight to the end,” MacArthur said. “Every time they got a steal, it just increased the intensity they brought defensively. It says a lot about them. They went out their way.”

Winthrop’s fullcourt pressure finally got to the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter. The Ramblers forced 16 turnovers in the fourth, often in the backcourt where they turned converted the steal into a quick transition layup. When Ian Steele (21 points) scored with 3:28 left, the Bulldogs lead was down to 10 points.

“We wanted to do that all game, and I don’t think we did  a good job of what we call pulling the string, or initiate the double (team). Instead of a true fullcourt press, we were almost in three-quarters, and I wanted to be in fullcourt press,” MacArthur said.

Added Perkins: “That’s our defense. We didn’t play at all until those last five minutes.”

Members of the Winthrop boys basketball team celebrate after they sank Madison to win the Class C/D central Maine title Friday night in Winthrop. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Steele sank a pair of free throws with 1:12 to play to cut the deficit to three, 49-46. With 38 seconds left, Brayden Stubbert’s layup cut Madison’s lead to a point. With 27.4 seconds to play, Cobb missed the front end of a one and one try for the Bulldogs, setting up Winthrop with the chance to take the lead.

“Their pressure got to us. We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t play smart. We were playing like we were down six instead of up by 17. We just mentally weren’t there for the last four and a half minutes,” Madison coach Jason Furbush said.

Madison built a double digit lead early. Callan Franzose’s 3-pointer late in the first quarter gave the Bulldogs a 16-3 lead. Madison led 25-14 at the half, and 41-24 going to the fourth quarter.

“We were into it. We played smart. I’m not sure what happened in the last four and a half minutes,” Furbush said.

“(Madison) played the game for three and a half quarters the way they wanted to. They dictated everything. They controlled the game,” MacArthur said.

Many Ramblers were members of the teams that won back-to-back Class C state titles in 2019 and 2020. That experience helped Winthrop down the stretch.

“It’s eight minutes and it’s the rest of our career. We’ve got to do something,” Winthrop’s Noah Grube said.  “Gavin hit that game winner, he’s got cold blood.”

With no state championship games this season, the Ramblers treated the central Maine tournament as one.

“It’s still a championship. A trophy’s a trophy,” Perkins said.

Cobb led Madison with 12 points, while Franzose added 11. Thomas Dean had 10 points for the Bulldogs, and Cameron Melancon grabbed 14 rebounds.

 

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