PORTLAND — Maranacook’s box-and-one defense slowed Spruce Mountain freshman Jace Bessey and helped the Black Bears knock off the top-seeded Phoenix 38-31 at the Portland Expo on Friday.

Ninth-seeded Maranacook (11-8) advances to face No. 4 Medomak Valley (16-4) next week in the Class B South boys basketball semifinals.

Bessey, Spruce’s top scorer, was face-guarded or double-teamed the entire game. He was forced to cede much of the offense to his teammates and finished with five points, including 0-for-3 shooting in the second half.

“It’s a lot of respect because (Bessey) requires someone on him the whole game,” Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson said. “A lot of things we do defensively, we couldn’t do because I didn’t want to leave him open. When he’s open he is making everything.

“He’s a really good player so we tried to have guys guard him. Nick (Florek) did an incredible job guarding him, Keagan (McClure) guarded him, different guys guarded him and they were exceptional.”

The Phoenix (17-1), though, traded leads with the Black Bears for most of the second half and stuck with them until the final minute of the game.


Chris Reid scored a layup and was fouled with 2:23 left in the game to give Maranacook a 31-30 lead. There was a foul on Reid’s free-throw attempt, which he missed, and Spruce’s Elie Timler hit a free throw to tie the game again, at 31-31. That, though, was the Phoenix’s final point.

Reid scored again, this time a powerful layup, with 1:55 left to give Maranacook a 33-31 advantage. Tyler Hreben added a bucket with 40 seconds to play, and then on the other end of the floor stole the ball from a Spruce player and was fouled on his drive to the hoop.

Hreben made one free throw to push the Black Bears’ lead to 36-31 with 34 seconds left. Keagan McClure then hit two free throws with a few ticks left to ice the game.

“We had opportunities to win, I think, until two minutes to go where we lost the lead,” Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey said. “Some slow or bad rotations on our defense gave them shots at the rim, which broke our back a little bit. When you’re struggling to score points, when you get behind by a couple possessions, it’s kind of scary. They try to get it all back in one shot and then it snowballs.”

Maranacook was paced by Reid’s 18 points. Lucas Towers led Spruce Mountain with nine points.



In the first quarter, Spruce Mountain couldn’t get any offense going. The only points for the Phoenix in the first period came from Towers. 

Boosted by five points from Reid, Maranacook took an 8-3 lead into the second quarter. 

Bessey hit a couple of fade-aways to help the Phoenix stay within reach of the Black Bears and cut the halftime deficit to 16-13. 

Scott Bessey wasn’t sure how his son would handle Maranacook’s defense, or the taunts from its fans. 

“That’s the ultimate respect,” Bessey said of the defense the Black Bears played. “My heart breaks for him to be the focus of that much attention. I don’t know what to expect from him in that situation, to be guarded sometimes by two or three guys, other than to get rid of it and hope your teammates can make plays, because that’s the right basketball move to make.”

Spruce Mountain’s offense got going in the third quarter. Five Phoenix players scored in the period, and Jayden Perreault’s jumper gave them their first lead since early in the first quarter, 19-17, with 5:04 left in the third.


Spruce entered the fourth quarter with a 25-22 lead and increased it to 30-25 on a 3-pointer from Perreault with 5:30 remaining in the game. 

Reid spurred Maranacook’s comeback, starting with a putback that made it 30-27.

“He’s a big energy guy for us, he can definitely score,” Magnusson said. “He had a big offensive rebound and putback, and so he was big for us. In the fourth quarter we just moved the ball much better. We talked about the ball sticking and we had to move it, and they did that and they knocked down some big shots.

“I was proud of them that they didn’t try to panic when we were down five. A lot of times players will want to speed it up, but they were good at being patient. We haven’t had many games where they had 22 points with about six minutes left.”

Hreben hit a fade-away shot to get the Black Bears within a point, 30-29, with 3:50 left.



The KVAC Black Bears and the MVC Phoenix don’t face each other during the regular season, so both teams were facing an unfamiliar and stout defense.

Magnusson said Spruce Mountain’s defense made Maranacook uncomfortable all game.

“A lot of credit to Spruce, they’re an incredible team,” Magnusson said. “… it took our best game to beat them. They’re really, really good. Bessey is one of the best coaches, and it took, defensively, a tremendous effort. A lot of credit to them.”

Bessey praised the Black Bears defense, and said that preparing for it is difficult.

“They’re good at it, that’s what they do, they junk it up,” Bessey said. “They practice that, the diamond, box-and-one, and we haven’t seen that. We had two days to prepare for it. People can talk about the one and an eight (matchup), whatever, I’m an adult, I can handle losing as a one seed. It’s usually about matchups, and when you face a team that junks it up, they do that all season and they’re really good at it, and we have two days to prepare for it. That’s a tough ask. In order to overcome it, we have to make plays.”

Medomak Valley advanced to the semifinals by beating Lisbon 60-47 on Friday.

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