With Saturday night’s Class AA state championship game fast approaching, the Bangor boys basketball team took one final break from practice Thursday.
“I think they’re at the point now where they’re just ready to play,” Rams coach Brad Libby said. “It’s been a long week of practice and playing against the same guys. They’re ready to get on the court against Bonny Eagle and play for that gold ball.”
Bangor (19-2) will attempt to win the program’s 13th state championship overall and first since 2011 when it meets Bonny Eagle of Standish (18-3) at 9:05 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
Bonny Eagle has one state title as a Class L (now Class B) program in 1970, but the Scots and Bangor have a championship-game history in the sport. Bangor defeated Bonny Eagle 52-41 for the 1995 Class A state crown.
While Bangor features senior forward and Class AA North tourney MVP Matt Fleming (21.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game), senior guard Damien Vance (16.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg) and junior forward Henry Westrich (12.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), team defense has been a primary focus in the title run.
The Rams allowed just 49.7 points per game during the regular season and reduced that average to 43.0 points per contest during the Class AA North regional.
“The guys really bought into my defensive philosophy,” Libby said. “I think we’ve made offensive lives difficult for the opponent, and our offense has come along from how good we are defensively.”
Bangor’s defensive test against Bonny Eagle will begin with slowing the talented Bonny Eagle backcourt pairing of 5-10 junior Zach Maturo and 5-8 sophomore Jacob Humphrey.
Maturo was the MVP of the Class AA South regional, scoring 26 points in the semifinals and 20 in the title game, a 48-44 victory over top-seeded Thornton Academy of Saco.
“Maturo is great at penetrating to create for himself but he’s just as good at creating for somebody else,” Libby said. “They really rely on that dribble penetration and his quickness to get to the hole and get points.
“Their other guard (Humphrey) is quick and can get to the hole but he’s a knock-down shooter.”
Libby, who played at Brewer High School under Mark Reed before spending 10 seasons at Husson University — four as a player, six as an assistant coach — under longtime Eagles’ head coach Warren Caruso, said a key to his team’s success this winter has been to focus on the moment.
Now just one more moment, or in this case one more game, remains.
“We’ve wanted to get better every single day, and I took that from my days at Husson and brought that here,” Libby said. “We don’t look too far ahead, we don’t look behind, we really just stay in the present. Every day we step on the court we just want to get better.”