With less than two minutes to play, Oceanside’s Carter Galley hit a floater in the paint to start the Mariners’ comeback attempt.
On the ensuing in-bounds, Orono’s Ben Francis found his younger brother Will on a full-court pass for a quick layup to put the Red Riots ahead by 11.
The basket came from years of basketball played between the two siblings and was part of the difference in Orono’s 61-58 victory in the Class B boys state championship game on Tuesday night at the Portland Expo.
“It’s crazy. We just won a gold ball,” sophomore Will Francis said. “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life. We talked about this. We won a gold ball with our travel team in seventh grade and we said, ‘We are going to be here someday in high school.’ It’s just crazy to think that we were the ones playing for a gold ball and I got to do it with my older brother.”
“The news said we were twins and we kind of have that twin connection in the head,” Will Francis added. “I see him, he sees me. It just motivates both of us.”
Carter Galley hit two 3-pointers in the final two minutes and his brother, Cohen, hit another and Oceanside (20-2) was able to pull within two points, 60-58, with five seconds remaining.
On the inbounds, junior Ben Francis threw another baseball-type pass to midcourt to senior Ellis Spaulding, who found an open Caden Gray and was quickly fouled with two seconds left. Orono (19-3) attempted multiple long inbounds passes on Tuesday night.
“We had two or three times they were called plays which either showed my aggressiveness or my stupidity, I am not sure,” Orono coach Ed Kohtala said. “One thing about our team is you can either be tentative or in attack mode and we want to be aggressive. We are best on the attack and best when we go.”
Gray hit a free throw to make it a three-point game and Oceanside missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
It’s Orono’s first boys basketball title since 1981.
“I am just really pleased for our guys, for the town of Orono and the ascending schools,” Kohtala said. “I am just thankful for, even over the last few days, the former champions in the 1981 team reached out to us, the last regional champions that reached out. I think events like this tie communities together. We’ve heard the stories from ’96 and ’81 and someday these guys will be telling those stories.”
The Orono players knew that they had to come out to a quick lead. Ben Francis hit a 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup early in the first quarter to give the Red Riots a 13-5 lead.
Throughout the entire game, Orono never gave up the lead.
“It was huge,” Orono’s Pierce Walston said of the team’s start. “We said coming out that we would have to deliver the first punch and we did. And in the second half, too.”
Oceanside trailed 30-27 heading into halftime and Orono upped its lead to 10 points in the third quarter before late baskets from Cohen Galley and Alex Collins pulled Oceanside within 44-38 after three quarters.
Carter Galley finished with a game-high 27 points, while his brother Cohen Galley chipped in 12.
Walston, a junior, stole the ball near midcourt early in the fourth and scored a tough layup that gave Orono a 48-40 lead 90 seconds into the quarter.
Ben Francis tallied his second steal of the quarter and scored a fastbreak layup that gave the Red Riots a 52-42 lead with 5:30 to play in the state title game.
Ben Francis led Orono with 23 points. Will Francis added 15.
“It feels great,” Ben Francis said. “It feels great to do it with [Will], too, my younger brother. I’ve been on the same team with him my whole life and we’ve done a lot of winning. Last year we had it in our hands but got it knocked out and so we came back this year with redemption in that northern Maine game. We wouldn’t be satisfied until we got here. Once we got here we put in the work we needed to.”
Will Francis notched a steal with 3:30 left and went coast to coast for a layup in traffic that continued Orono’s run and gave the Red Riots a 55-42 advantage.
Carter Galley stopped the run with a layup over Will Francis with 2:45 to play, cutting the Mariners’ deficit to 11.
“First of all credit to Oceanside for stepping up and hitting huge shots,” Kohtala said. “But we got to a point where we didn’t go very deep and in the timeouts I tried to let them catch their breath. I was saying that they have to get out on shooters but when they’re shooting from the NBA line, it’s hard.”
The Orono players heard people doubting their team, so Tuesday night they proved a point.
“It feels amazing, especially to prove everybody wrong,” Walston said. “People didn’t think we would be here in the first place and we made it here and got the job done. It definitely motivated us. Everybody was saying we wouldn‘t be here and it feels good to make everybody realize that Orono is on the map.”
Walston finished with 12 points in the win.