BANGOR, Maine — An impressive defensive performance carried the Southern Aroostook boys to victory over the top-ranked Machias Bulldogs Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Warriors defeated previously unbeaten Machias 44-37 to win the Class D North championship.

The win marks the first time Southern Aroostook has won the regional crown since 1991, when coach Brett Russell was a guard on the team that went on to win that year’s Class D state championship.

Southern Aroostook’s Graham Siltz (32) puts a shot up over the outstretched arms of Machias’ Kashman Feeney during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Southern Aroostook won 44-37. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Saturday’s win was the 17th straight for the 19-1 Warriors of Dyer Brook, who move on to the State Class D championship against South champion Forest Hills 2:45 p.m. Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Warriors used a balanced scoring attack in their victory over Machias. Hunter Burpee and Dyan Burpee both scored 12 points, while Camden “Buddy” Porter added 10; Graham Siltz and Chris Caswell both had four; and Drake Weston added two.

Southern Aroostook had a hot start to Saturday’s championship game, bolting to a 6-0 lead to start the game, prompting a quick timeout by Machias coach James Getchell. The Warriors finished the first quarter on top 8-2.

That lead grew to 11 by halftime as Southern Aroostook held the high-scoring Machias offense to just six points in the first half (17-6). The only question was could the Warriors keep up such a frantic pace?

“Coming into the game, the kids wanted to go man-to-man and really get up in their grill,” coach Russell said. “We figured we could bother their guards and it worked. But If you had told me before the game that we would hold Machias to just six points, I would have called you a liar.”

Southern Aroostook’s Camden Porter reaches for the ball, along with teammate Hunter Burpee (behind). To the right is Machias’ Kyle Anderson. Southern Aroostook won 44-37.
Looking up at the ball is Southern Aroostook’s Hunter Burpee (left) and Machias’ Kashman Feeney during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

The Warriors managed to maintain their defensive pressure throughout the full four quarters.

“I feel like today was a statement game for us,” Southern Aroostook senior Hunter Burpee said. “I knew we were going to pull this one off. I have never had the chance to play in the states, so I am pumped for sure.”

The Bulldogs never led in Saturday’s championship game, but did make things interesting down the stretch. Machias cut Southern Aroostook’s lead to just four points (39-35) with 1:38 to play in the game when Kashman Feeney made the second of two foul shots.

It was the closest the Bulldogs would get to Southern Aroostook for the entire game.

Southern Aroostook’s Drake Weston (left) is guarded closely by Machias’ Jayden Rhodes during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Southern Aroostook won 44-37. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

A pair of Porter free throws with just 9.5 seconds to go sealed the victory for Southern Aroostook. Porter made 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute to ice the game for the Warriors.

“I told the guys to get the ball in Buddy’s hands,” coach Russell said. “He has been automatic from the foul line all tournament.”

“We have been waiting our whole lives for this,” Porter said. “I know I have been waiting for this since the third grade. I knew all I had to do was make [the free throws] and end the game.”

Twirling the net in celebration is Southern Aroostook senior Hunter Burpee after the Warriors beat No. 1 Machias 44-37 in the Class D North championship Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times
The Southern Aroostook boys hoist the Class D North regional championship plaque after the No. 2 Warriors knocked off previously undefeated No. 1 Machias 44-37 Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Machias has been a thorn in the side of Southern Aroostook in recent years. The Bulldogs knocked Southern Aroostook out of the basketball tournament in the quarterfinals in 2020, and last spring beat Southern Aroostook in the Class D North baseball championship.

For Machias, Shane Feeney led the way with 14 points, while Kashman Feeney added nine; Kyle Anderson had seven; Ethan Foss, five; and Jayden Rhodes, two.

Machias ends its season with a 17-1 overall record.