Senior center Hunter Burpee scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the second-seeded Southern Aroostook boys basketball team opened its Class D North semifinal with 22 unanswered points en route to a 71-42 victory over the sixth-seeded Schenck of East Millinocket at the Cross Insurance Center on Thursday evening.
“Hunter’s our workhorse,” Southern Aroostook coach Brett Russell said. “As long as he’s playing with his back to the basket in the paint and attacking from there he’s pretty much unstoppable. And if he’s walking into his threes, he’s pretty automatic there, too. He’s a big presence and he’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing this year and for the few years that I’ve been here.”
The win was the 16th straight for the 18-1 Warriors of Dyer Brook, who will move on to play top-ranked Machias in the regional championship game at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.
Southern Aroostook will be seeking its first regional crown since 1991, when Russell was a guard on a team that went on to win that year’s Class D state championship.
Schenck ends its season at 10-11.
Dylan Burpee added 17 points for Southern Aroostook while Chris Caswell added eight.
Senior forward Kaden Hannan paced Schenck with 19 points, while Mason McDunnah scored nine.
Southern Aroostook shot a robust 62 percent (18 of 29) from the field and forced 15 Schenck turnovers during the first half while surging to a 44-7 halftime lead.
The Warriors’ 2-2-1 halfcourt trapping defense and the turnovers it produced kept Schenck scoreless until Hannan scored on a fast-break drive with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
That came after Southern Aroostook opened the game with 22 consecutive points, including 10 points from Hunter Burpee.
“We start out in man-to-man for a few trips and then we jump right into the halfcourt trap and we invite people to the areas where we want them, we don’t chase,” Russell said. “We get a lot of layups from it or good ball reversals and outside shots, and we’ve shot the ball great down here so far.”
The Warriors’ most recent 1,000-point scorer showed his versatility, making two 3-pointers to go with a follow-up shot and a layup off Chris Caswell’s assist.
Hunter Burpee finished the half with 12 points, while Dylan Burpee scored 11 points and Drake Weston came off the Southern Aroostook bench to contribute six points and three assists.
The Warriors’ defense, meanwhile, limited Schenck to just two field goals during the game’s first 16 minutes.
“The way we do it is we try to lure them into the sidelines and the corners,” Burpee said, “and as soon as we get them in the corners we crash on them really fast and try and make them make a turnover and then get the ball down to the other end really fast.”