Camden Hills puts on show against Nokomis on route to Bangor AuditoriumCamden Hills/Medomak Valley: Part III set for Feb. 16 at 'The Mecca'
Rockport — When looking at the Wednesday night, Feb. 13 Eastern Class B high school boys prelim playoff matchup between No. 8 Camden Hills and No. 9 Nokomis of Newport, many pundits, fans and the like, had the same question: Which Warrior team will show up?
Would it be the squad that handled the likes of No. 4 Oceanside with relative ease, or the team that struggled to beat No. 17 Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield to end the regular season?
As it turns out, the question all should have asked is which Windjammer team would show up Wednesday night to face the Warriors?
Would it be the squad that ended the regular season with a 2-3 record, or the one that always seems to find a way to win and perennially competes for state titles?
Unfortunately for the visiting Warriors, it proved to be the latter.
The Windjammers jumped to an early first-quarter lead and used balanced scoring throughout the game to stifle the visiting Warriors (10-9), sailing to a 62-46 win and a berth in the regional quarterfinals in Bangor.
Camden Hills (13-6) moves onto the Bangor Auditorium for the anticipated third game of the campaign between the Windjammers and top-seeded and Midcoast-rival Medomak Valley (16-2). The two squads are scheduled to tip off on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 4:35 p.m.
The Windjammers and Panthers played twice during the regular season, both wins for Medomak Valley — a 63-60 decision Dec. 11 in Waldoboro and a 95-91, four-overtime thriller Jan. 31 in Rockport.
On Wednesday, Camden Hills jumped to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter against Nokomis, led 30-21 at halftime and 40-31 after three quarters.
Colin Morse led the balanced Windjammer scoring attack with a 14-point effort, while Connor Hart tallied 12; Jayson Kuhn, 11; Chandler Crans, nine; Connor Graffam, six; Terron Bailey, five; Merrill Hall, three; and Alex Crans, two.
For Nokomis, Spencer Hartsgrove dumped in 19 points, while Andrew Cartwright added 13; Chandler Foss and Drew Wing, both six; and Noah Kershner, two.
Both teams shot well from the charity stripe, with the Windjammer netting 14-of-18 (78 percent) and the Warriors 6-of-8 (75 percent).
"I thought we played good tonight," said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart. "We played with energy, I thought we played together both offensively and defensively, we shared the ball [and] we rebounded better [than in our regular season-ending loss to Oceanside]. I thought it was a much better effort tonight."
Coach Hart made it clear which Warrior team he thought would show up and prepared his team as such.
"The good one," he said. "They're scary. They've got size, their big guys can handle it, they can post up, their guards are quick. Oceanside went up there and they kicked Oceanside's butt. When they're really playing good, they're tough."
The Warriors trailed by single digits at halftime and after three quarters and would not go away throughout the course of the game as Hartsgrove came out and buried a trey early in the fourth quarter to bring the visitors within 40-34.
However, Camden Hills responded with a 7-0 run that deflated the Warriors as Connor Hart scored on an interior bucket, Bailey canned a trey from the top of the arc and Connor Hart scored another field goal, taking his defender off the dribble, prompting a Nokomis timeout.
Out of the timeout, Connor Hart fired a bullet to Morse in transition, who calmly swished a 3-pointer in front of the Camden Hills bench, pushing the lead to 16 points with 5:30 left.
"Balance was key for us tonight and executing in big moments in the game," coach Hart said. "There's a timeout, they're feeling good about themselves and it always feels good to come out and respond with a basket."
Nokomis got no closer than eight points the rest of the way as the hosts held them at arm's length over the game's final minutes.
Now Camden Hills can turn its attention to the Bangor Auditorium, the site of its most important game of the season.
It is no secret the Panthers and Windjammers know each other well. The two schools are 13 miles apart. The players know what their opponents are capable of. The two teams have played twice this season — both Panther victories — with the margin of victory for both games combining for a mere seven points. Hart and Panther coach Nick DePatsy know each other's coaching styles well and even work in the same school district.
At this point in the season, coach Hart summed it up best.
"I think both teams are going to look at what worked for them, what didn't work for them and just try to make adjustments," he said. "They've got the size issue which is a big one for us, and I think we're a matchup problem for them a little bit too.
"Who knows what could happen? It could be another overtime game," the coach said.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.