PORTLAND—Bonny Eagle trailed, and trailed, and trailed against South Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena in Tuesday night, Feb. 19’s AA South semis – they trailed, anyway, until deep in the fourth quarter, when sophomore standout Jake Humphrey turned a midcourt steal into a drive and a slick layup, at which point the scoreboard balanced out at 44-44.
After that, the momentum tipped the Scots’ way ever-so-slightly, just enough to secure them a thrilling win: Humphrey combined with partner-in-crime Zach Maturo – a junior – for 45 of the team’s total in a 55-50 triumph.
Humphrey had 19, and Maturo 26.
“Our halftime,” Humphrey said, “coach told us we were going to come back. We all knew we were going to come back. We didn’t play our best through the first half; we were missing our shots.”
“The court was so much bigger,” Maturo said. “We knew, eventually, we were going to start scoring, it was so spread out. We just went to work.”
“Those guys are awesome,” Bonny Eagle head coach John Trull said of Maturo and Humphrey. “We had about a four-hour practice yesterday, and they’re there, in the gym, dribbling, drills, shooting. I normally have to kick them out.”
Bonny Eagle moved to 17-3 on the victory. South Portland actually handed the Scots their worst loss of the regular season, a 58-25 lashing back on Jan. 12 that no doubt only fueled Bonny Eagle’s fury. The Scots haven’t lost since.
“First time we played them,” Humphrey said, “they face-guarded me, they doubled Zach. We haven’t really faced the experience of that, but now, in the playoffs, we’ve experienced that multiple times.”
Bonny Eagle big Will Hendrix opened the scoring, but the Riots own goliath, Scott Lewis, quickly matched him: 2-2 to start. SoPo then inched out front 6-2 on a Tyree Bitjoka steal/drive combo and a Lewis steal/feed to Bitjoka, who drove for two more.
Maturo cut things to 6-4, but the Riots had secured the early advantage and weren’t about to relinquish it: Geremi Baez made it 8-4, Pamba Pamba 10-4 and Baez 12-4 before Humphrey picked up his first bucket of the night, a three. Baez added two for 14-7, a seven-point difference the teams would maintain through the end of the first, when the board read 19-12.
Humphrey kicked off the second with a two, 19-14, but if the Scots had it in them to come back, that comeback wasn’t happening before the break. The sides mostly traded blows, with Lewis and Baez pushing the Riots out front 23-14 before Maturo nailed back-to-back twos (the second following a pretty spin-move in the key) for 23-18.
Time winding down, Maturo then prowled beyond the arc, whiling away the waning moments of the half. With just seconds remaining, he drove, and shot, nailing a big buzzer-beater to give his boys some zip to take with them into the locker room.
26-20 at the break.
The Scots looked to make their move in the third – and came close, pulling within two: Humphrey hit an early three for 26-23, and another soon after for 28-26 but the Riots answered with their own pair of threes. Maturo kept at them, though, plunking down a two, dishing to Chase Graves underneath for two more, and, finally, bringing the Scots within spitting distance at 34-32.
But the end of the stretch belonged to SoPo – and especially Baez, who propelled the Riots forward to 42-34. Hendrix hashed Bonny Eagle’s last points of the quarter, a pair of frees.
The Scots finally found the groove they needed in the fourth. Maturo began it, adding a pair of twos for 44-38 before Humphrey chimed in with his first big midcourt steal/drive combo and 44-40. The duo continued to fuel each other: Maturo struck, Humphrey turned the tying steal/drive combo, Maturo struck again.
“Me and Jacob, we yell at each other. We go back and forth, so we keep each other in it,” Maturo said. “We knew that, one possession at a time, offense or defense, we were going to come back.”
“They work off each other so well,” Trull said of Humphrey and Maturo. “It’s like they’ve been playing together forever. You wouldn’t know they’re a junior and a sophomore.”
“There’s no player more clutch than Jake Humphrey,” Trull continued. “And I don’t know if there’s a guard in this tournament as good as Zach Maturo. We’re very fortunate to have those guys, and if we get a lead late, we know they’re going to take care of it.”
Bonny Eagle stoked their fury further: Someone on the team swatted a defensive rebound outward to Nate Ferris, who flung the ball upcourt to Humphrey – and you can guess what he did with it.
“We have big role-players,” Maturo said, asked about the rest of the Scots’ lineup. “Hendrix, he’s another big guy that steps up for us – defensively, and offensively. We have Nate Ferris; he really brings the presence – he’s like a Dennis Rodman or something. He gets us going…He makes big plays.”
48-44, Scots. Humphrey did his thing again – stole and drove and scored – for 50-44. That’s when SoPo began to claw back, Baez hitting a two and Cade Carr a three to make it a one-point game with a minute to play.
“Every game, Jacob has big defensive possessions,” Maturo said. “He had a couple steals for easy layups, and that’s how we got that lead.”
Bonny Eagle frittered away as many seconds as they could, but Carr managed to foul Maturo with 30.2 to play. Maturo drained two frees, and then drained two more; the Riots’ hopes of scooping up possessions and converting them into points evaporated. Ferris earned the last point of the game and capped the 55-50 result.
“Nate’s a guy we inserted in our starting lineup after the South Portland loss,” Trull said. “He really helps the rebounding, he’s figured out the offense as he’s gone. He’s probably one of our most-improved, one of our best players now, even making free-throws down the stretch.”
Beyond Maturo’s 26 and Humphey’s 19, Hendrix finished with four for the Scots, Cam Gardner three, Graves two and Ferris one. Baez totaled 16 for SoPo, Bitjoka 10, Lewis eight, Pamba seven, Cade Carr six and Jacob Milton three.
Bonny Eagle entered the tournament ranked second in AA South. The Scots bested No. 7 Massabesic 49-34 at home to earn their rematch with the Riots. They faced No. 1 Thornton Academy in the Regional Final on Friday evening, Feb. 22 – and emerged victorious there as well.
“It’s special to know that we’re hopefully going to lead Bonny Eagle to a State Championship,” Humphrey said. “We just want to do it for our team, for everyone – for our whole community.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Zach Maturo flew across the court scoring points for the Scots on Tuesday night.
BE’s Cam Gardner performs some gymastics.
Jake Humphrey is a ferocious competitor and a leading scorer for the Scots.
Jake Humphrey tries to shake a SoPo opponent.
Jake Humphrey pulled off the same stunt – stealing from SoPo near midcourt and driving forward for a quick two – again and again during the late game on Tuesday, helping propel BE into the lead and onward to victory.
Jake Humphrey curls toward the basket low in the zone.
Zach Maturo slides inside for the Scots.
Will Hendrix fires up as BE surges into the lead.
Jake Humphrey lays in two; Bonny Eagle’s mounting lead shows on the scoreboard.
BE’s student-section fan contingent makes a little ruckus for their boys.
Jake Humphrey piled up 19 for the Scots in their comeback victory.
Chase Graves scores inside.
Just another capture of Zach Maturo doing Zach Maturo things.
Will Hendrix volleys up an inside two for the Scots.
Jake Humphrey scores two more on another steal/drive combo in the fourth for BE.
Zach Maturo tallied 26 points in BE’s win over SoPo.
Zach Maturo engages the enemy in air combat.
Scot Will Hendrix is an inside force on the court.
Jack Bean fires off an outside jumper.
Cam Gardner unwinds into a shot for the Scots.
Nate Ferris takes on South Portland goliath Scott Lewis.
Zach Maturo drives along the baseline for BE.