PORTLAND—When Nate Ferris turned a late-fourth steal vs. North reps Bangor in Saturday, March 2’s AA State Final – when Ferris did that, then handed off to 5-foot-8 sophomore bombardier Jake Humphrey, only for Humphrey to zoom upcourt and let loose a massive three…well, all hell broke loose.
Ferris-to-Humphrey-for-three sliced Bonny Eagle’s deficit against the Rams – a deficit that’d stretched to 13 as late as the end of the third – to a mere trio, just triplet of points, a single possession: a drop in the proverbial bucket.
In a low-scoring tournament game, 13 points – 41-28, in this case – is a massive gulf, a seemingly unbridgeable Rhine to cross. Three, though – 46-43 – now that is practically nothing. Indeed, one might say it’s better to be the team that’s down by a trio but holds all the momentum than it is to be the team that’s led all evening and now has no idea what’s hitting them.
Alas, the Scots couldn’t quite complete the comeback. Bangor recovered their footing in the waning minutes, pushing their advantage – primarily on foul-shots – back up to 10. 58-48 the final.
“We knew we were going to make a run,” Bonny Eagle head coach John Trull said. “It didn’t matter how much we were down, or what the situation was. We just couldn’t chip away enough early to make it a bigger run late. There’s some things we could’ve done; I probably could’ve called timeouts, I probably could’ve coached it better. But we just kind of let that lead get a little bit too big and couldn’t come back.”
Scots star Zach Maturo heaped up 19 on the night, while Humphrey added 11. Cam Gardner added nine for the team, Will Hendrix six and Jack Bean three.
Bangor’s Damien Vance logged the game-high, 20. Matt Fleming trailed him by one at 19, and several other Rams contributed in the single digits.
Bangor won the tip, but the Scots quickly strip-stole to turn possession around. They couldn’t capitalize, though, and despite strong defensive rebounding – from Humphrey in particular – took several minutes to get on the board. During that time, the Rams piled up six: Fleming hit a pair of frees on a Ferris foul and Noah Missbrenner added a two inside.
Finally, Maturo was able to thread the ball inside to big man Hendrix, who dropped in a two. Fleming quickly answered with a two and a free before Maturo knocked down a three to make it 9-5, though Vance then closed the quarter with a two. Bangor in control.
“We just didn’t play that well at the start,” Trull said. “It could’ve been jitters, I don’t know. I mean, [Bangor hasn’t] been here either…We just didn’t get inside enough early, and rebounds and all that stuff.”
The Rams pulled further ahead to start the second, simply looking like the better team – or at least like the team having the better night. Vance and Fleming led, unsurprisingly, as Bangor built to 21-11 midway through the stretch.
“Fleming’s tough,” Trull said. “6-6, solid, knows how to play, doesn’t foul. Will does a good job getting guys off-balance, but Fleming does a pretty good job of staying on-balance.”
The few minutes before the break belonged to Bonny Eagle, though: Maturo hashed a pair of frees, Humphrey hit a two and Maturo (as he’s wont to do) set himself up with a successful buzzer-beater. 23-17 as the sides trotted to their locker rooms.
Worth noting: Even when Bangor led – even when they were, sure, in command of the game – BE nevertheless looked, well, hungrier for the W. The Scots seemed to play with more voracity: they threw themselves everywhere in pursuit of the ball and fought to shoot like they were starving to death and the basket was a spit-roasted suckling pig dripping liquid fat on a luau fire.
“We know we have to play hard; we know we’re undersized,” Trull said. “We have some things we don’t do well, but all you can ask as a coach is how hard kids can work, and they didn’t get outworked tonight. I can say that for sure: They did not get outworked, they didn’t get out-hustled.”
What really looked like it hobbled BE, then, was the fact that too many of their shots just wouldn’t fall – particularly in the early going. That probably says little about their skill or their effort, and more about bad luck and a high-quality opponent.
The third went the Rams’ way, too. The usual suspects spearheaded an 18-point eight minutes for Bangor, whereas the Scots tallied just 11. Gardner posted the best performance for Bonny Eagle during that time – kept the team alive, really – with a pair of sizzling threes and a two. Maturo had a two and a free, but otherwise BE couldn’t get through the hoop.
“Any game like this, you need someone to step up outside of your regular scorers,” Trull said, “and Cam did a great job. He hustles his butt off, takes charges; probably one of the best games of his season.”
If the Scots had any hope left – if they wanted to get their hands on that basketball crown jewel, the gold ball – they needed to make their move in the fourth. And make their move they did: Bean opened the home stretch with a three on a feed from Maturo; Maturo stole, drove, and dropped in a two; Hendrix added two inside; Ferris grabbed a defensive rebound and handed off to Humphrey, who drove for two.
Suddenly, 13 had shrunk to five, 42-37. Vance made it seven again, 44-37, then nine again, 46-37, but he only managed to do so because Bonny Eagle apparently needed to come up for air. Hendrix hit a two, next, before Gardner stole and drove, drawing a foul beneath the basket; he sank one of two for 46-40. Ferris stole – this was it, the moment the Scots nipped so closely at Bangor’s heels they got a bloody mouthful of mutton – and delivered the ball to Humphrey, who end-to-end converted. 46-43.
“That’s a great team over there,” Trull said of Bangor. “They’ve been No. 1 all year; we’ve been doubted. And we had them, three-point game.”
But that was it: Fleming hit a two and Vance completed a three-point play to put Bangor back in the lead, 51-43. Maturo added a three and a two for 53-48, but time, time, time was of the essence, and simply in too-short supply. The dwindling clock forced Bonny Eagle to foul multiple times, and the Rams capitalized painfully well on those opportunities.
58-48 the agonizing result.
“We call ourselves underdogs, but I never thought we were underdogs,” Trull said. “It’s good to play that role and make the guys hungry, but I’d rather lose with my team than win with that team any day.”
Bonny Eagle retires till next winter at 18-4. A small handful of seniors – Hendrix, Bean and Logan Fogg – says goodbye to the program; most of the Scots’ lineup returns, however – and that includes Maturo, Humphrey and Gardner.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Cam Gardner tries for two.
Zach Maturo, a junior, will return for the Scots next year.
Will Hendrix, the Scots chief big, says goodbye to the team after this season.
Jack Bean picked up a key three for the Scots.
Cam Gardner kept Bonny Eagle in the hunt through the third quarter.
Jake Humphrey drives inward for the Scots.
Chase Graves fires off a jump-shot.
Zach Maturo added 19 in the Scots’ bout with the Rams.
Jake Humphrey unwinds into a shot.
Will Hendrix gets air over a pair of Rams opponents.
Zach Maturo takes to the air for the Scots.
The Scots and the Rams tip off; Nate Ferris is at center for Bonny Eagle.
Bonny Eagler Jake Humphrey flies fearlessly vs. Bangor’s Matt Fleming.