WINSLOW — With their team trailing Bucksport by 10 points and a bit despondent at halftime of Thursday night’s Unified state basketball championship, Lisbon’s Tyler Halls and his fellow player partners and coaches needed to draw inspiration from somewhere to pick Lisbon’s spirits up for the second half.
Halls, who was quarterback of Lisbon’s Class D South championship team, conjured up memories of a couple of comebacks to remind his teammates they still had hope — even though one of the examples was one of the worst days of his life.
“The kids were freaking out, but my exact words were, ‘What did the Patriots do? What did MCI do to us?’” said Halls, referencing New England’s historic comeback in Super Bowl LI and his own loss in the state football championship last November. “It kind of clicked for them after a little bit.”
Lisbon senior Jake Patenaude knew exactly what to do. He scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to lead the Greyhounds to their first state championship with a 40-37 win at Winslow High School’s Mansfield Gym.
“Jake went out and kept his composure and really took the game over from there on out,” Halls said.
“I definitely wanted to come out and score more [in the second half],” Patenaude said. “I had a lot of confidence in myself after I scored the first basket.”
Trailing 22-12, Patenaude went right to the hoop on the Greyhounds’ first possession of the second half and went on to score all 10 in a 14-4 Lisbon run that ended with him tying the game, 26-26, with a baseline jumper with 10:34 left.
“The start of the second half, I could not be more proud of every single one of them,” said Jonah Sautter, a junior who is Lisbon’s student coach. “They came out, they faced adversity, they conquered it and they just played an amazing game.”
Patenaude wasn’t finished, giving the Greyhounds their first lead of the game at 32-30 with 7:30 to go.
The teams traded baskets for the next seven minutes and were all even at 34 when Nathan Havlicek put the Greyhounds in front to stay with a putback with 3:16 remaining.
Quincy Howes-Mosher pulled the Bucks back within one by making one of two free throws moments later. But the Greyhounds slowed things down on offense to get good shots the rest of the way.
Ryley Austin found a cutting Halls to make it a three-point lead and Dawson Martel added a putback to make it a two-possession game with under a minute left.
Howes-Mosher led all scorers with 23 points, including four 3-pointers. Ben McDonald added five points for the Bucks. Amanda Mason chipped in with eight points for the Greyhounds.
This was Lisbon’s third state championship game appearance in the three-year history of Unified. The Greyhounds lost to Hampden Academy the first two times, and the third time didn’t appear to be the charm when Bucksport roared out to a 9-0 lead on 3-pointers by Howes-Mosher and Ben McDonald.
“At the start of the game, you could definitely tell that the nerves were getting to them,” Sautter said. “It’s a big stage. I mean, they haven’t really experienced someone announcing their names when someone scores, so that was getting to them.”
Mason finally got the Greyhounds on the scoreboard 6:19 into the game. but their cold shooting continued.
Strong work on the offensive boards by Halls gave Lisbon some much-needed second chances, and they were able to pull within 15-10 on a steal and layup by Patenaude with 8:10 to go in the first half.
“I’m going to give these kids my 110 percent effort,” said Halls, in his third year as a partner. “If I show them I have the passion to play this game as hard as they can potentially do it, I’m going to show them what it’s like to work hard and be great at something.”
Howes-Mosher scored seven straight points before halftime to put the Bucks back up by double digits, and put Lisbon’s coaches into pep talk mode.
“We talked about just picking away, basket by basket,” Lisbon head coach Terri Tlumac said. “We said ‘It’s only five baskets. That’s nothing. We can get that back.’ And little by little, we just chipped away, chipped away.”
As they have all season and throughout their three-year existence, the Greyhounds rotated players on and off the floor, five at a time, every two minutes throughout the game. Tlumac said the sense of teamwork and everyone contributing not only played a big part in their first state title, but in the success the program has enjoyed since its inception.
“It’s really heart-warming for them after working so hard and being here three times to come out on the other end of this,” Tlumac said. “The contributions from the partners and the athletes, it’s second to none. You couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”
“It’s not so much an accomplishment for me that we won. I feel the accomplishment is getting them to reach their goal,” Halls said. “From losing these two past state championships, it’s really motivated our team.”
“It feels amazing to win. I can’t explain it,” Patenaude said. “We got new partners, and the old partners know a lot. We ran down the clock so we could win the game. I think it’s the partners that helped me win the game.”