BANGOR, Maine — On a semifinal Thursday that saw three top seeds leave the Queen City as upset victims, it appeared for a while as though the basketball gods would strike lightning on the top-seeded Easton boys.
The top-ranked Bears saw a seven-point halftime lead disappear at the hands of a scrappy, fourth-ranked Washburn team, which battled back to force overtime.
But coach Manny Martinez’s club managed to prevail, as Logan Halvorson’s driving layup just under halfway through the extra period gave Easton the lead for good in a 52-48 victory over the Beavers at the Cross Insurance Center.
Easton will take on Aroostook County rival Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook for the North regional title at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at the CIC.
As efficient as Easton was at moving the ball in the first half, the Bears were victimized by 16 second-half turnovers, which helped the Beavers get back into the game.
Washburn would close to within two by the end of the third quarter, and thanks to the play of Derek Baker and Noah Caron, finally took the lead late in regulation on a follow-up bucket by Caron.
But Easton’s Drew Sotomayor would sink both ends of a 1-and-1 shortly after to provide the tying margin, and Washburn missed two shots late in regulation.
The Beavers could not re-tie the game after Halvorson’s layup in overtime. Washburn’s Jarrett Olson would make only one of two foul shots and Jordan Doody hit a layup on the subsequent Easton possession to put the Bears up three.
A Caron layup with 26.3 left kept the Beavers alive but Jacob Flewelling hit a driving layup for Easton, and Sotomayor stole the ball on Washburn’s final possession.
“That could’ve gone either way,” said Martinez, a relieved look brimming across his face. “I think Washburn’s a quality team. Those types of games, sometimes you win them sometimes you lose them.”
Easton used efficient ball movement and stingy interior defense in steadily building its 21-14 halftime lead.
The Bears did a phenomenal job of limiting the touches of Washburn center Jarrett Olson, who was constantly double-teamed in the paint and held to two points in the first half.
Martinez said Olson was one of the Bears’ focal points defensively.
“I think the biggest thing if we were going to lose that game I didn’t want Olson to beat us,” said Martinez.
Sotomayor scored nine of his points in the first 16 minutes, including a steal and a breakaway layup which gave Easton its largest lead at 21-10.
But the Beavers would keep fighting, scoring the final four points of the half on a Noah Caron jumper and McCall Turner layup.
Martinez was proud of the way his team kept battling back when Washburn would make consistent charges.
“Both teams left it all out there on the court and I’m proud of the kids for the way they conducted themselves on the court,” Martinez said.
““I think it was just a couple of rolls, we had a couple of good shots that could’ve won the game for us, and they didn’t,” said Washburn coach Randy Norsworthy. “But I’m quite proud of how aggressively we came back and played in the second half.”
Halvorson had 16 points for Easton and Sotomayor finished with 16 as well. Doody contributed nine.
Washburn was led by Caron’s 19-point effort while Baker had nine.
Easton 52, Washburn 48 (OT)
No. 4 Washburn (15-5)
Cropley 2-9 0-0 4, Baker 4-12 0-0 9, Turner 1-6 4-4 6, Olson 3-8 1-2 8, P. Thompson 1-4 0-0 2, Caron 8-19 3-3 19; Totals: 19-58 8-9 48
No. 1 Easton (18-2)
Halvorson 6-15 0-0 16, D. Sotomayor 6-10 3-4 16, C. Sotomayor 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 1-2 1-3 3, Doody 5-9 2-2 12, Flewelling 2-5 1-2 5; Totals: 19-41 9-11 52
Washburn 6 14 32 45 48
Easton 15 21 34 45 52
3-pt. goals: Washburn 2-18: Baker 1-5, Olson 1-5, Caron 0-3, P. Thompson 0-1, Cropley 0-1, Turner 0-3; Easton 5-14: Halvorson 4-12, D. Sotomayor 1-1, Brown 0-1