HODGDON, Maine — The team that makes its free throws often comes away the victor. That was the case Wednesday evening as the No. 7 Hodgdon boys showed poise from the charity stripe to come away with a 62-59 victory over Narraguagus in a Class C North basketball preliminary playoff.
Hodgdon improves to 11-8 on the season while Narraguagus of Harrington finishes with a 7-11 record. The Hawks advance to the quarterfinals, where they will face No. 2 Fort Fairfield (14-4) at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday.
Hodgdon beat Fort Fairfield twice during the regular season in a pair of close games, winning 50-47 on the road and 45-43 at home.
In Wednesday’s prelim, the Knights converted 11 of 23 foul shots (48 percent), while Hodgdon made 19 of 26 free throws (73 percent).
“We really won this game from the free throw line tonight,” Hodgdon coach Rob Smith said. “Daden Palmer’s free-throw shooting, as well as the whole team, really carried us tonight.”
Palmer, a junior, converted 4 of 6 free throws in the final quarter, and was 6-of-8 overall, finishing with 20 points.
Hodgdon senior Jimmy Buzzell led all players with 27 points, including 9 of 13 from the charity stripe, despite fouling out midway through the final period.
Narraguagus was led by junior Brettin Dinsmore with 22 points, while Chad Perry added 11.
Hodgdon opened the game with a quick transition layup by Buzzell, but the Knights answered quickly with an inbounds play to Dinsmore, who was fouled. He converted the extra point, giving Narraguagus its only lead of the game, 3-2.
The Hawks then went on an 8-0 run and Narraguagus never led again.
Up 24-13, coach Smith told his team at the break to be prepared for a strong second-half push by the Knights.
“I knew they [Narraguagus] were not going to lay down in the second half,” he said. “They made some big shots and really cut into our lead, especially in the fourth quarter.”
With Buzzell, one of the Hawks’ best players, sitting on the bench after fouling out with about four minutes remaining, Smith had to dig a little deeper into his bench. And sometimes a coach just has to play a hunch.
With about a minute left in the game, Smith turned to sophomore Matt Tuttle for the first time on the night. Tuttle responded by promptly draining a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 60-54 lead.
“I put him in there primarily for his ball-handling, since Jimmy fouled out and they [Narraguagus] were pressing,” Smith said. “But I know he can hit threes. I wasn’t looking for him to shoot, but he did and he nailed it.”