In a strongly contested Class B North quarterfinal, the No. 3 Orono boys basketball team took down No. 6 Caribou 50-40 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Friday to advance to the semifinals.
The Red Riots (16-3) will face the winner of No. 2 Winslow (17-1 ) and No. 7 Presque Isle (10-8) in the semifinals.
Orono started on fire in the first quarter, taking a commanding 19-6 lead thanks in part to 10 points from Pierce Walston.
“It was really big for me in the sense that I got to get there and score, but it was also really big for the team because when they keyed on me I could dish it to other guys and they could go to work,” Walston said of his hot start.
Walston, combined with a tough shooting start, set the Vikings back early.
“Orono shot the ball really well in the first, Pierce had 15 in the first half and distributed really well,” Caribou coach Kyle Corrigan said. “He’s one of the best guards in the conference, easy, it’s not even a question. … It was our first time here for all my guys and so we shot it much better in the second half and played really good defense in that fourth, just dug ourselves too deep of a hole.”
The two teams squared off in the regular season finale, in which Orono won 61-51 on the road.
Both teams used that recent meeting to help the game plans heading into Friday night.
“It made it 10-times tougher because now we know each other,” Walston said. “We just had to shut down their offense.”
The Vikings started off the second quarter with a triple from Henry Hebert, but Walston answered immediately with a triple of his own, showing three fingers in the air as he jogged back on defense. The junior guard finished with 17 points.
Brady Hews drilled a 3-pointer later in the second quarter for the Red Riots that gave Orono a 27-14 lead with three minutes left in the half. On the next Orono possession, the ball went out of bounds under the Red Riots’ basket. Walston threw the in-bounds pass up toward the rim for Will Francis, who leaped in the air and tapped it in and widened the gap between the B North foes.
Kaymen Sargent hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the first half to make it a 16-point ball game at the break, 32-16. Caribou shared the ball well, moving the ball on every possession, but struggled from the field.
Tristan Robbins led Caribou with 10 points, followed by nine from Hebert.
Two minutes into the second half, Walston and Francis connected on another alley-oop, this one on the fastbreak to give the Red Riots a 40-18 advantage.
Orono center Noah Schaff helped the Red Riots on the boards in the third quarter, grabbing three of his nine rebounds in the period.
Caribou opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run, capped off by back-to-back threes from Reece Cavagnaro and Dylan Bouchard that cut the Vikings’ deficit to just 10 points, 44-34, with six minutes to play in the B North quarterfinal.
“The scary thing about Caribou is that they’re so explosive and have balanced scoring,” Orono head coach Ed Kohtala said. “A lead against them never feels secure. But, I was pleased. We kept battling and we made some really big plays when they made the run at us. This tournament is wide open. If you play badly you’re probably going to be out. You could redraw this tournament four different times and get four different champions.”
Hebert nailed another 3-pointer to cut the Orono lead to single digits, but the Vikings had just two team fouls with two minutes to play, forcing them to foul multiple times before getting Orono to the line, which killed a lot of valuable seconds.
When Caribou finally got Walston to the free throw line, he missed the front-end of a one-and-one. The Vikings couldn’t convert on two offensive chances on the other end, and Schaff grabbed a rebound and was fouled.
Schaff missed at the line, but Caribou also missed on the offensive end, grabbed a rebound but lost possession thanks to an Ellis Spaulding steal with 55 seconds left.
Walston hit two more free throws at the end to seal the victory.