Calais defeated Fort Fairfield in the Class C North semifinals at the Cross Insurance Center on Feb. 24, 2023. Credit: Seth Poplaski / BDN

Even though Jace Cook entered Friday night’s Class C North boys basketball semifinal on the precipice of 1,000 career points, that was the furthest thing from the Calais senior guard’s mind. 

“Wins are always more important than points,” Cook said rather matter-of-factly after he broke the elusive scoring barrier while leading his top-ranked Blue Devils to a 70-47 victory over fourth-ranked Fort Fairfield at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. 

Cook, whose game-high 31 points helped lead coach Dean Preston’s (17-3) club into Saturday night’s regional final against second-ranked Fort Kent, cracked the 1,000-point plateau with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. 

“He’s got his heart in the right place and his mind in the right place,” Preston said. “His teammates have that same character.”

Fort Fairfield wraps up its season 14-6. 

Cook was one of three Blue Devils in double figures, with Matt Dana contributing 12 points and Alex Richard 10. 

Cook’s 13 third-quarter points were instrumental in helping Calais pull away after a tight first half in which the Blue Devils led by seven at halftime. 

Most of Cook’s baskets came in transition thanks to the Blue Devils’ suffocating 2-3 zone, which turned up the heat on the Tigers in the second half. 

“I knew that they were throwing some passes that I could get my hands onto if I jumped the passing lane, so I really focused on getting some fast-break points,” Cook said. 

Fort Fairfield was able to keep the game close in the opening half behind Ethan Willard’s 10 first-half points, but the Blue Devils’ combination of length and athleticism proved to be too much as the game wore on. 

“They have a great little triangle offense,” said Preston, whose Blue Devils opened the second half on a 16-4 run to seize control. 

“Our adjustment was that our block guy needed to stay home and when he did we could contest that baseline drive. They’re a good team.”

Fort Fairfield didn’t go quietly, getting as close as 12 early in the fourth quarter on back to back 3 pointers from Gabe Theriault, but the Blue Devils responded quickly and the Tigers never recovered.

“We were hoping that our running and our athleticism would put their backs against the wall and put us in a good spot,” Preston said. 

Theriault’s 15 points led the Tigers while Willard finished with 10. 

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Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports freelancer Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.