BANGOR, Maine — The Sumner Tigers made their first-ever tournament game at the Cross Insurance Center a memorable one.
The No. 8 Tigers battled back from a 14-point deficit four minutes into the game to eventually take the lead at halftime, and then had to make another comeback from nine points down in the second half.
With time winding down, Sumner’s Colby McLean hit a layup for the winning points in Tuesday night’s 54-53 victory over No. 1 Central Aroostook Tuesday night in a Class C North quarterfinal.
“We call it a 1-4 slip,” McLean said of the winning play set up after a timeout. “It’s me and Kyle Brooks on the wing. If we can’t get him the ball I just drop right to the post and it’s a 1-on-1 isolation.
“That’s where my bread and butter is and I just went to work,” he added.
The Panthers had a final chance with one second remaining, but Ben Thomas’s desperation heave caromed off the right side of the rim to cap the dramatic ending.
Kyle Brooks and Simon Torrey were Sumner’s high scorers with 17 and 14 points, respectively. The Tigers are playing in the regional tournament for the first time since 2011.
Sumner committed five turnovers, made just one field goal and called two timeouts over the first 3:46 of the game and found itself trailing 16-2.
Instead of folding, the Tigers settled down and bounced back in a big way, capping a furious rally with 10 unanswered points during a 3:50 stretch late in the second quarter to head into intermission with a 31-30 lead. The Tigers committed only two turnovers the final 12 minutes of the half, while Central Aroostook’s inability to make layups contributed to its struggles.
“We got rattled early, but coach just wanted us to gather ourselves and keep our heads,” McLean said. “It was a little nerve-racking, but once we got the jitters out, we were ready to play ball.”
The Tigers went down again to begin the second half when Brayden Bradbury and Josh Thomas hit consecutive baseline 3-pointers. The Panthers grabbed a 43-34 lead before Sumner came roaring back and re-established the lead late in the third on a 3-pointer by Dylan Bernier.
The fourth quarter went back and forth, but CA misfired on all four of its foul shots in the final two minutes to allow Sumner to set up the game-winning play.
Thomas led Central Aroostook with 22 points, a total which included six 3-pointers. A handful of those came several feet beyond the arc. Ethan Pryor added 12 points for the Panthers.
Sumner, based in East Sullivan, improved to 13-7 and will face Houlton in Friday’s 3:35 p.m. semifinal. Central Aroostook of Mars Hill ended up with a 15-4 record.