Updated with quotes, link to photos

Fourth-ranked Mariners stunned by No. 13 Ponies in playoff prelim

No trip to Bangor this season for talented Oceanside boys basketball team
By Ken Waltz and Mark Haskell | Feb 13, 2013
Photo by: Ken Waltz Oceanside's Hunter Grindle, left, passes the ball to a teammate during a Feb. 13 high school boys basketball game in Rockland. The Mariners lost to Foxcroft Academy 55-45 in an Eastern Class B prelim playoff game.

Rockland — Perhaps one word says it all from the Oceanside perspective. Stunned.

That is how the Mariners feel at this moment after No. 13 Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft (9-10) came into Oceanside's gymnasium and pulled off a major upset Wednesday night, Feb. 13 by beating the No. 4 hosts (14-5) 55-45 in an Eastern Class B high school boys basketball prelim playoff game.

That means the Mariners, ranked first in the region at several points this season, will not be playing at the Bangor Auditorium in this the final year of the fabled, historic building.

And Oceanside was predicted by many to be among the favorites to challenge for the regional crown. But that is no longer in the cards.

On Wednesday, Foxcroft Academy had a game plan and executed it to perfection, using a methodical approach on offense and an extended zone defense which prevented the Mariners from getting into a flow.

And, ultimately, all that cost the Mariners in the end.

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On paper, the game looked like a mismatch, but, as the Mariners found out, games — especially those with a trip to 'The Mecca' on the line — are play between the lines on the court. And, in the end, the Ponies simply executed better overall than Oceanside.

"They played like we expected them to play," said Oceanside coach Matt Breen of the Ponies. "They had just gotten in[to the playoffs], there was no pressure on them, they played loose, they played relaxed like they had nothing to lose and they played well.

"The [Oceanside] kids played hard, but it was just one of those things where it seemed like nothing bounced our way."

Wednesday's outcome is historically why coaches of higher-ranked teams despise prelim games and coaches of lower-seeded squads love them. In one game, on any given night, anything can happen.

Breen insisted the Mariners were not looking past the Ponies in Wednesday's game.

Despite that fact, the visitors made believers out of the hundreds of fans in attendance and galloped out of town with a surprising win.

"The first half of the season isn't indicative of what they had," said Breen of the Ponies. "They were coming off a [Class C] state championship in football, they were banged up and weren't in basketball mode early in the season and down the stretch they went 7-3 [after starting the season 1-7]. So we knew they were playing good basketball."

It was the second lowest single-game point total for the Mariners, who scored 41 in a loss to Nokomis of Newport. Oceanside also scored 80 points in one regular-season win.

Foxcroft Academy moves onto the quarterfinals to face No. 5 Caribou (14-5, after a 47-43 prelim playoff win over No. 12 Hermon, which finished 8-11) on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:35 p.m. at the Bangor Auditorium.

Oceanside does not play Caribou, Hermon or Foxcroft Academy during the regular season.

On Tuesday, Oceanside was paced by Shea Davenport with 13 points; Sam Meklin, 11; Hunter Grindle, 10; Isaiah Stone-Patterson, eight; Matt Zable, two; and Tyler Gilson, one. The Mariners netted six treys, including three from Meklin and two from Stone-Patterson.

For the Ponies, Ryan Rebar dumped in 20 points; Hunter Smith, 12; Kaleb Smith, 10; Kolby Kendall, six; Hunter Law, four; and Volodymyr Pyzhov, two. Foxcroft Academy made four 3-pointers, including two by Smith.

The Ponies netted 14-of-29 foul shots (48 percent) and the Mariners 5-of-9 (56 percent). The visitors were 8-of-18 in the fourth stanza.

Foxcroft Academy set the tone early and jumped to a 7-0 lead as the Mariners did not score their first point until Stone-Patterson hit a 3-pointer with 4:19 left in the opening quarter. The Ponies led 11-5 at one point in the first eight minutes with the stanza ending 13-9 in favor of Foxcroft Academy.

"Them getting out to that quick start really played into their hands," said Breen. "They wanted to be patient and deliberate and stretch the floor and them getting out to a 7-0 lead we had to extend our defense a little further than we wanted to."

The methodical play continued as the Ponies often selected to stay in the stable and hold the ball or be patient with it, not giving the Mariners a chance to sail. Foxcroft Academy led 25-21 at halftime.

Two third-quarter 3-pointers from Meklin allowed the Mariners to pull even at 27-27. The game also was knotted 29-29 before the Mariners took their only lead of the game — 31-29 — with 2:45 left in the third stanza. The game was knotted 31-31 until Smith drilled a trey with 29 seconds left to give the visitors a 34-31 cushion.

Grindle's shooting kept the Mariners close before Davenport's conventional 3-point play tied the game 38-38 with 4:18 left in the fourth stanza. The game was tied again at 40-40. Two scores from Rebar, a sparkplug for the Ponies, lifted Foxcroft Academy to a 44-40 lead and the Mariners never recovered.

Foxcroft Academy iced a bundle of foul shots down the stretch to extend its lead and the Mariners got only as close as 46-42 and 51-45 (on a trey from Davenport) in the final 1:10.

Oceanside also had a few key turnovers down the stretch that hurt its chances of a comeback.

The game was halted for 10 to 15 minutes with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter when Rebar and Stone-Patterson collided while leaping for a ball. Rebar suffered an elbow injury when he hit the floor. He was escorted to the sideline and his arm was taped up and he was given a concussion exam. He reentered the game after a few seconds on the bench. The 5-foot-10-inch senior hurt the Mariners early and late in the game.

The Mariners will lose seniors Davenport, Gilson, Meklin and Zable to graduation.

Breen added that he "takes full responsibility" for Wednesday's prelim playoff loss.

"I don't want to blame anything on the kids," he said. "They played their [tails] off for me all year long and they gave it everything they had. We just didn't win the game. Foxcroft [Academy] executed and played a great game."

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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