No. 1 playoff spot in cards as Mariners upend PanthersOceanside avenges season-opening loss, punches ticket straight to Bangor
Rockland — With 9.1 seconds remaining in Friday night's game between the Oceanside and Medomak Valley boys basketball teams, the chant of: “We're number one!” echoed through the school's gymnasium from the Mariner fans.
When those final seconds ticked off the clock, it was official.
The Mariners had overcome a first-half deficit and were lights out from the foul line in the second half as the hosts netted an important 70-61 late-season victory over the rival Panthers on Jan. 31.
The win not only avenged one of Oceanside's two losses on the season — the other being to the team's other Midcoast rival Camden Hills — but it essentially secured the top seed in Eastern Class B for the Mariners and, with that, a spot in the quarterfinal round at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor (which replaced the old Bangor Auditorium).
“We're really happy to get the automatic bid,” said veteran Mariner coach Matt Breen. “It's something we've wanted to achieve throughout the course of the season, especially after what happened last year. It's something that the kids have used to really fuel them and make them want to be better."
Last year, the Mariners were the region's fourth seed and were upset — at home — in the preliminary playoff by No. 13 Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft.
The Ponies were later eliminated by the Panthers, who went on to win their first regional title in 33 years.
“That [prelim playoff] loss burned all of us and our kids really responded to it in a positive way,” said Breen.
On Friday night against the Panthers, Nick Judge netted 21 points with the aid of only two field goals as the steady senior guard was 17-of-20 (85 percent) from the foul line — and 10-of-12 in the fourth quarter — to lead the hosts.
David Gould, another senior, added 20 points for Oceanside in the win and also contributed mightily from the charity stripe, connecting on 10-of-12 (83 percent) attempts.
As a team, Oceanside netted 33-of-40 (82 percent) attempts from the foul line, while Medomak Valley converted 10-of-14 chances (71 percent).
The Mariners, all season, have shot a sensational percentage from the foul line as a team.
“It's one of our points of emphasis,” said Breen. “You can't win close basketball games if you don't make free throws. And we take a lot of [foul] shots during practice and we try to do them with tired legs and do the best we can to simulate a game situation.
“We have good shooters, and that makes it a lot easier.”
Despite the loss, Panther coach Nick DePatsy said he was “very pleased” with his team's effort.
“We played hard [and] we were in the ballgame,” the veteran coach said. “Problem is you can't put a team like that on the foul line like we did and they don't usually miss too many. Their free-throw percentage is very good and they knocked them down when it counted.
“They're a good team there [and] they're hard to beat there. I thought we rose to the occasion and played to their level.”
Also chipping in offensively for the hosts were Isaiah Stone-Patterson with eight points, while Nick Mazurek and Jarrod Leonardi added six; Hunter Grindle, five; and Keenan Hendricks, two.
Nicholas DePatsy poured in 29 points to lead Medomak Valley, while Colton Spear and Zach Little added eight; Micah Williamson, six; Zach Starr and Michael Wadsworth, four; and Hunter Baughman, two.
The game was low scoring early on as the Panthers led 10-8 after the first quarter, while the hosts rallied and took a 28-26 advantage at halftime. Oceanside then took 47-43 edge after three quarters.
Breen said before the season that Judge and Gould would be paramount to the team's success and the two senior guards have been just that for the Mariners.
“Partway through the second quarter of that [first] Camden [Hills] game they started, 'Hey, there's no one that's going to step up and make the big plays, we have to do it,' ” said Breen of Gould and Judge. “That was kind of a turning point for us. As soon as they realized what they were capable of, we got things going in the right direction. And they put a ton of work in over the summer. They were extremely dedicated.”
Coupled with Stone-Patterson and Grindle, Breen has a strong nucleus of senior players who are poised for postseason play.
“This senior group it really works hard and they have those leadership qualities that you talk about all the time,” Breen said. “They're very composed. A lot of times you watch them you can't tell if they're up 10 [points] or down 10. They don't get rattled and that translates to the rest of the team.”
On Friday, Medomak Valley led by as many as eight points in the second quarter as DePatsy, at one point, scored seven straight points in the stanza, but Oceanside rallied to take the lead thanks, in part, to a Gould 3-pointer and a free throw from Grindle, which put the hosts up by four points.
The Panthers went on a 13-0 run with two hoops from both Little and DePatsy, a triple from Starr and an offensive putback by Baughman to take 41-33 advantage midway through the third quarter, but the Mariners went on a 12-0 run of their own to retake the lead with two free throws each from Judge, Gould, Leonardi and Grindle, along with field goals from Leonardi and Mazurek, to give the hosts a 43-41 lead with 1:17 left in the stanza.
Oceanside was 9-of-9 from the charity stripe in the third quarter.
Medomak Valley got no closer than four points throughout the fourth quarter as Oceanside held the visitors at arm's-length at the charity stripe.
The Panthers got into foul trouble in the second half, collecting nine fouls through the first six minutes of the third quarter. Both Williamson and Boone Olson fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Breen said the team plans to scrimmage Class A Falmouth next week, likely Tuesday, Feb. 4. The Yachtsmen won the state Class B title last year over Medomak Valley and moved up to Class A this year. Breen said the time and court have not been determined, but they plan to play on a collegiate court, which has the same dimensions as the Cross Insurance Center, where the Mariners will play a quarterfinal playoff game in a few short weeks.
Oceanside also will play in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship game against a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Cony High School in Augusta.
In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Oceanside (14-2, 123.4568 points) is first and Medomak Valley (8-8, 59.2593 points) eighth in the 19-team region. The top 13 teams qualify for the playoffs.