When the two most recent Class B boys basketball state champions clashed at Hermon High School late Saturday afternoon, the full house on hand could see why each participating school boasted a championship pedigree.
Few turnovers, few fouls, streaks ended and streaks extended, some big shots and a milestone moment all were elements of Hermon’s 46-42 victory over previously undefeated Caribou.
The win was the Hawks’ 31st straight on their home court, and it ended the defending state champion Vikings’ 27-game winning streak.
Hermon (11-2) received its go-ahead shot from a somewhat unlikely hero, as junior point guard Wyatt Gogan’s 3-pointer from the left wing gave the Hawks a 43-42 lead with 1:31 left in the contest.
“It wasn’t really intended for me, but I got off a flare and just caught it and I was open so I hit it,” Gogan said of his only points of the game.
Senior forward Isaac Varney, who scored his 1,000th career point early in the third quarter, soon added two free throws and Jaeden Henderson made 1 of 2 from the line to make it a two-possession game with 23.8 seconds left.
Caribou looked for a quick shot, but Hermon junior Eli Reed twice tipped passes by the Vikings, leaving the clock to wind down until Parker Deprey launched a desperation 3-pointer that missed in the final seconds.
“We couldn’t get into the flow of our offense. We’re usually a fast team that likes to go up and down and we could never get into it,” Deprey said.
Varney, a 6-foot-4 senior forward who began the day seven points away from 1,000, reached that magic number on a baseline drive with 6:14 left in the third quarter. But his biggest basket relative to the game’s outcome may have been his buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before intermission.
Caribou, which averaged 75.1 points per game entering the contest, finally got its offense untracked midway through the second quarter. With senior guard Alex Bouchard leading the way, the Vikings scored 12 unanswered points to build a 26-15 cushion until Varney struck from deep on the left wing as the half ended to give Hermon a tinge of optimism heading into the break.
“That’s a tough shot by Isaac,” Caribou coach Kyle Corrigan said. “Parker had two hands in his face but he buried it right at the buzzer. That’s almost like a momentum killer, a tough shot, but he’s a great player.”
And as the pace of the game continued to favor a more deliberate Hermon approach after intermission, the Hawks’ defense also rose up, limiting the Vikings to six field goals and 16 total points over the game’s final 16 minutes.
“Our kids were very good tonight in their concentration and their effort and their energy to stick together and play together in a way that was going to have a chance to be successful,” Hermon coach Mark Reed said.
Varney’s 1,000th point was part of a 13-5 Hermon run that produced a 31-31 tie late in the third quarter, and while two free throws by Sawyer Deprey at the end of the period restored Caribou to a two-point lead, Hermon was back in business.
A 3-pointer by Henderson and a backdoor layup by Varney off a Henderson assist soon gave Hermon its first lead of the second half at 36-35.
Caribou inched back out to a four-point lead at 42-38 with 3:10 left after a pair of baskets by Bouchard and a Parker Deprey 3-pointer, but Hermon remained within striking distance.
Varney scored from the low post, then Reed dipped into the lane and kicked the ball out to an open Gogan, who didn’t hesitate in launching his 21-footer to give his team the lead for good.
“Gogan’s a very influential player for us,” Varney said. “He creates a lot of shots for us other guys, and he stepped up when we needed that basket.”
Varney finished with 15 points and game-high 12 rebounds for Hermon, while junior forward Zac Tubbs added 11 points.
Parker Deprey led Caribou with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Bouchard scored 17 for the 11-1 Vikings.
“I’m happy with how we battled,” Corrigan said. “This is a tough place to play. Hermon’s a quality ballclub and they got some big points out of guys who might not be the ones usually taking the big shots, so hats off to them. That’s a heck of a game on their end.”