Confidence is a wonderful thing and can carry an athletic team far and renewed confidence, as well as vastly improved play, late in the season carried the Rockland boys basketball squad to the brink of the Eastern Class B semifinals.

Alas, although the Tigers gave the No. 2 Ellsworth Eagles a mighty scare Friday night, the No. 10 squad fell a point short in the regional quarterfinal playoff game at the Bangor Auditorium.

Rockland pushed Ellsworth to the limit before falling 66-65 in overtime.

The Tigers finish the campaign 10-10, while the Eagles (16-3) will advance to face No. 3 Mount View of Thorndike (16-4 overall) in a semifinal playoff game on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 2:05 p.m. in Bangor.

Mount View beat No. 6 Old Town (12-7) 46-38 earlier Friday in another quarterfinal playoff game.

Friday night’s quarterfinal game between Rockland and Ellsworth was tied 59-59 at the end of regulation.

Leading Ellsworth were Ryan Petros with 33 points, followed by Cote Card and Andrew Austin, both with seven; Jordan Carter and Brad Folmer, both six; Nick Holt, three; and Zach Emeigh and Ross Sanders, both two. The Eagles netted 17-of-35 free throws (42 percent).

For the Tigers, seniors Chris Nolan and Dylan Meklin were immense, as they have been for much of the season. Nolan poured in 28 points and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Meklin netted 21 points; Joe Nelsen and Aidan Hadley, both five; Luke Morrill, four; and Josh Harjula, two. The Tigers made 13-of-22 foul shots (59 percent).

“I’m proud of the kids,” said veteran Rockland coach Matt Breen. “There were a few times where it looked like the game was going to be over, but for them to battle back like they did and send it to overtime and have a look to win it [was fantastic]. They worked really hard. We battled foul trouble, and the kids hung in there and never got down and were able to push it to overtime. I’m proud of the way they handled themselves.”

Nelsen and Morrill each fouled out of the game, while Nolan and Meklin each ended the game with four fouls.

Rockland earned a spot in the playoffs with a regular season-ending win over No 1. Camden Hills and then beat No. 7 Winslow (12-7) 57-44 in a prelim playoff Wednesday to qualify to play in Bangor.

During the regular season, the Tigers split with the Black Raiders, winning a season-opening game 57-45 Dec. 4 and losing 53-51 Jan. 22. The Tigers did not play the Eagles during the regular season.

Nolan started Friday’s game needing 13 points to reach the coveted 1,000th career mark. With 987 entering the game, the senior Tiger went to work and dumped in 28 points to finish his stellar career with 1,015 points.

He joins a list of Tiger 1,000-point scorers that includes his current coach, Breen, as well as Ernie Kavanagh and Terry Kenniston. The only Tiger girl to score 1,000 career points is Caitlin Hynes.

In Friday’s game, Ellsworth led 9-7, 26-25 and 44-36 at the quarter breaks before Rockland outscored the Eagles 23-15 in the final eight minutes to knot the game 59-59 at the end of regulation.

At times, Friday’s playoff game turned into Nolan and Meklin against Petros of the Eagles, who scored 10 points in the first half, added 19 in the second half and four more in overtime.

Needless to say, controlling a player as talented as Petros, who can score from anywhere on the floor, is not a one-player job.

“We switched some things around at the end [defensively],” said Breen. “We put Harjula on [Petros] at the end to deny the ball from him and he did a nice job of that and we did a better job of getting in help position. But he’s a good player and he’s going to get his points.”

Nolan tallied seven points in the first half and had only nine total after three stanzas, but tallied 18 points during the final eight minutes of regulation and the four-minute overtime. Meklin scored 12 points in the first half, six in the second half and three in overtime.

Nolan drilled three 3-pointers, all in the final 12 minutes of the game, and made 9-of-11 free throws (82 percent). The senior was key in the fourth quarter as he scored 15 points, making all seven of his free throws.

In the OT, Petros had four points for Ellsworth, while Austin added two and Folmer one. For Rockland, Meklin and Nolan drilled treys in the extra frame.

Midway through the fourth quarter Nolan connected on a 3-pointer to cut the Tiger deficit to 48-41, then knocked down a pair of free throws to slice the Ellsworth lead to five points.

Meklin and Petros later traded hoops with two minutes left in regulation to make the Eagle lead 53-47 with two minutes remaining, followed by Petros and Nelsen each trading a pair of free throws.

The contest quickly turned into a game of cat-and-mouse, as Meklin and Nolan — both with four fouls — were subbing in and out on offense and defense in an effort to keep them eligible. Nolan later canned a trey with under a minute remaining to bring the Tigers within 58-56.

Petros then hit 1-of-2 at the line to put Ellsworth back up three points, but Nolan responded by netting all three free throws after being fouled in a 3-point attempt with 28.1 seconds left to tie the game 59-59.

The Eagles could not get a shot off on their final possession, forcing the extra four minutes of play.

Nolan and Meklin each canned 3-pointers in the overtime, but the Tigers faced a 66-65 deficit with less than 20 seconds to go. Rockland had three shots from close range, but could not convert before time expired.

“We were trying to run a pick-and-pop with Meklin, with Chris [Nolan] either having the option to penetrate to the basket and the big guys crash [the boards] or kick it to Meklin for a jump shot,” said Breen. “We got a look, it didn’t fall; we got a tip, it didn’t fall. That’s just the way it went tonight. But they hung in there and battled the whole game and that says a lot.”

Breen spoke highly of both Nolan and Meklin following the game, both who played their final game with the Tigers.

“I’ve had Dylan and Chris on the varsity for three or four years, and they’ve meant a lot,” said Breen. “They’ve been in huge games for this program, they’ve won huge games for this program and they’re going to be missed. You don’t replace guys like that. I hate to see them go, but I’m proud of what they accomplished while they were here.”

Click for more photos from the Rockland and Ellsworth playoff game.

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