BANGOR, Maine — With one of its 1,000-point scorers in foul trouble and a second being held in check, the Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook boys basketball team turned to its role players to play prime roles during Monday’s Class D North quarterfinal against Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
Tyler Batchelder, Luis Morales and Robert Lillis all answered the challenge, helping the third-ranked Warriors outlast the sixth-seeded Panthers 51-45 at the Cross Insurance Center.
Coach Bill McAvoy’s Southern Aroostook club (15-4) will face No. 2 Machias in Thursday’s regional semifinals. Machias topped No. 7 Shead of Eastport 68-26.
Batchelder scored 10 points against Central Aroostook and teamed with Morales to apply considerable turnover-inducing pressure on the front of Southern Aroostook’s full-court press and trapping half-court defense.
“We try to get steals, and if we get steals, we fast-break,” said Batchelder, a 5-8 junior guard for the seniorless Warriors. “That’s what we do.”
Lillis hit two early 3-pointers and later combined with Batchelder and Morales to score nine of Southern Aroostook’s 15 fourth-quarter points as Southern Aroostook defeated Central Aroostook for the third time this winter after winning two regular-season decisions by an average of 33.5 points.
“The role players helped us tremendously at that point,” said McAvoy. “I said at the beginning of the year that how far we go as a team is going to depend on them.”
Junior center Nolan Altvater, who scored his 1,000th career point during Southern Aroostook’s final game of the regular season, led the Warriors with 18 points and nine rebounds.
But he had to sit after drawing his third and fourth fouls within a 29-second span late in the third quarter, and things were looking good for Central Aroostook as Zach Crouch then took a steal in for a layup to pull coach Jason Woodworth’s Panthers within 36-34 by the end of the period.
Southern Aroostook regained control as Lillis made a layup to open the fourth quarter, Jackson Mathers hit two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound, and Batchelder took a feed from Lillis and buried a 3-pointer from the left of the key to give the Warriors a 43-34 cushion with six minutes left.
Central Aroostook got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Mathers, a junior guard who also eclipsed the 1,000-point mark earlier this winter, managed just one field goal against Central Aroostook’s diamond-and-one defense but made all nine of his free throws to finish with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman guard Ben Thomas paced 10-9 Central Aroostook with 13 points. Crouch had 12 points and eight rebounds, and senior guard Dustin Pryor had 11 points and 11 boards.