A.R. Gould forces quick playoff exit for North Haven boys basketballStellar season by islanders comes to sudden halt in quarterfinals
Augusta — After experiencing its best regular season in years, the North Haven boys basketball team was excited about making a second straight trip to the Augusta Civic Center and the Western Class D tournament.
The Hawks played well in a quarterfinal playoff loss at the venue last year and hoped to build on that experience and performance during this season's postseason, but, despite a strong regular-season record that even included a thrilling one-point win over No. 1 Forest Hills of Jackman, the islanders finished fifth and drew a tough first-round opponent in A.R. Gould of South Portland.
And, ultimately, the Hawks' flight to Augusta ended after just one perch, as No. 5 A.R. Gould (12-7) outlasted North Haven (14-4) 64-49 in the regional quarterfinals Saturday, Feb. 16.
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The Bears swept the season series with the Hawks, winning 65-53 Dec. 15 in Portland and 46-32 Feb. 2 in North Haven. Thus, A.R. Gould completed the victory trifecta with Saturday's postseason decision over the islanders.
On Saturday in Augusta, A.R. Gould led 15-7, 33-19 and 48-35 at the quarter breaks.
For the Hawks, Avery Waterman turned in an amazing 27-point performance, which included four 3-pointers and 3-of-4 free throws. Waterman tallied five points in the first quarter, seven in the second and third stanzas and eight in the fourth.
Also contributing for the islanders were Zebadiah Campbell with 10 points; Dalton Hornby, nine; and Ethan Mao, three. The Hawks made 7-of-13 free throws (54 percent).
For A.R. Gould, Zachariah Mohammed and Tim Robertson were the key contributors, as they tallied 25 and 23 points respectively. Additionally, Isaiah Mokeme tallied seven points, Chris Thomas five and Dante Dennis four. The Bears connected on three treys and 11-of-19 foul shots (58 percent).
Robertson's 12 points in the second quarter and Mohammed's 10 in the first stanza gave the Bears the early momentum as they jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the game's first few minutes.
The Hawks continued to scrap against the taller Bears in the second quarter as they closed the gap to 19-17 after Hornby scored two points at the free-throw line and two more on a layup, a Waterman 3-pointer and a free throw from Taylor.
However, the Bears went on a 14-2 run over the final 3:40 of the first half, with Robertson accounting for 12 of those points on three layups, a spinning jump shot from the baseline, a 3-pointer and a free throw, coupled with an Mokeme offensive putback.
A.R. Gould made several impressive scoring runs in the game, which proved to be North Haven's downfall.
“I think it was just a matter of momentum swings,” said North Haven coach Roman Cooper. “Seems like A.R. Gould had the swings more so in their favor. But I was proud of the way our kids played. They really hung tough.”
The Bears used their size, height and athleticism to befuddle the Hawks, particularly in the second half, when Mao, the team's 6-foot-1-inch center, was forced to the bench with his fourth foul one minute into the third quarter.
Mao fouled out of the game with 3:35 remaining in the contest.
“That was a killer,” said coach Cooper. “It was unfortunate because this is a kid that never ever really gets into foul trouble at all. He’s very clean, but here in the tournament they don’t let as many things go. They call it a little tighter. He got into foul trouble early and I think that got into his head a little bit.”
The Bears blocked several Hawk shot attempts and used the height and reach of their players to force several turnovers, resulting in quick, transition baskets.
North Haven did not quit, however, as they clawed back into the game, cutting its deficit to nine points on a 7-0 run keyed by a Waterman 3-pointer, a Campbell layup and a Hornby offensive putback with 3:24 left.
Waterman netted another 3-pointer late to cut the islanders' deficit to 56-47 with 1:07 remaining, but the Hawks were forced to foul after that and the Bears hit their free throws to pull away.
Cooper was disappointed with the loss, but said "we'll be back here next year."
“We’ve got everybody coming back next year,” he said of his squad, comprised of four juniors, two sophomores, two freshman and two eighth-graders. “The boys played their hearts out and did everything we asked of them. We just fell a little short today.”
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