OLD TOWN, Maine — Orono’s young guns tried to spoil Old Town’s Senior Night boys basketball celebration at MacKenzie Gymnasium on Thursday evening.
But Adam Richardson wouldn’t let it happen.
The 6-foot-3-inch senior forward scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots as the defending Class B state champions held off the visiting Red Riots 56-51.
“Adam’s really reaching a peak right now,” said Old Town coach Brian McDormand, whose team improved its record to 15-1. “He started out slow this year but he was solid tonight — the difference in the game.”
That was in evidence throughout, including the game’s final two minutes.
Richardson broke a 49-49 tie by making the first of two free-throw tries, then took an inbound pass from Drew Coulombe and converted inside to make it a three-point game with 1:24 to play.
Orono again came up empty on the offensive end, and Richardson fed Kaleb Gifford for a layup that gave Old Town a 54-49 cushion with 51 seconds left.
“We’ve had our most success when we go down to Adam the last two years,” McDormand said. “Last year we really went down to him a lot more than we did this year, so we focused on that [tonight].”
Two free throws by Orono sophomore Jackson Coutts made it a one-possession game, but Coulombe countered with two free throws to restore Old Town to a five-point lead with 19.2 seconds remaining.
Orono managed just Coutts’ two free throws over the game’s final 3:41.
“We had numerous open looks, they just didn’t fall,” said Orono coach Jason Coleman, whose club is now 9-6. “Sometimes that happens.”
Senior guard Eric Hoogterp added 14 points for Old Town, while Orono senior guard Damian Heeger made four 3-pointers for 12 points and sophomore point guard Nate DeSisto — playing his third game of the season after recovering from injury — scored 10 of his 12 points after intermission for the Red Riots.
Another sophomore, forward Keenan Collett, battled foul trouble but contributed 11 points and eight rebounds for an Orono team that looks ready to be a significant player in the upcoming Eastern C tournament.
“This can do nothing but help us going forward,” Coleman said. “Being in a tight game like this against a team that’s now 15-1 at their place on Senior Night, I’m disappointed but I’m not upset with the effort. The kids battled all the way, it was a two-possession game with a shot to get it to one with 15 seconds left.”
Orono built a 24-17 lead midway through the second quarter thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Heeger and some strong work inside by reserve forward Kam Hines.
But Kaleb Gifford hit a 3-pointer and Richardson followed with six straight Old Town points as the Coyotes rallied for a 28-28 tie at intermission.
The Old Town run continued at the outset of the third quarter, with Richardson working inside for a basket and then feeding Hoogterp for a step-back 3-pointer from the left wing.
And after a foul away from that play gave Old Town the ball back, Scott Smart scored off the inbound pass from Coulombe to cap off an 18-4 surge that gave the Coyotes a 35-28 cushion less than two minutes into the period.
But Orono came all the way back thanks in large part to six points from DeSisto, including a pull-up 3-pointer after a steal to tie the game at 40-40 with still 3:04 left in the quarter.
Old Town answered with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Tyler Gifford, and led 47-41 entering the final period, but Orono had one more run and rallied for a 49-49 deadlock on a baseline drive by Collett good for a three-point play with 3:42 to go.
It was the Red Riots’ last goal.
“We kind of clogged the middle up and played really good defense at the end,” McDormand said. “And that’s the mark of a good team that’s a state championship team.”