GSA boys edge Mattanawcook in OT to reach 4th straight regional title game

first_img Hospice volunteers help families navigate grief and find hope – September 12, 2020 Mike MandellMike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at Latest Posts MPA approves golf, XC, field hockey, soccer; football, volleyball moved to spring – September 10, 2020 Ellsworth runners compete in virtual Boston Marathon – September 16, 2020center_img Bio Latest posts by Mike Mandell (see all) BANGOR — For a moment, it appeared as if George Stevens Academy’s bid for a fourth consecutive Northern Maine title would end in the semifinals. Then, the Eagles’ defense took hold.In what’s been a rare scene at the Cross Insurance Center in recent years, the GSA boys’ basketball team trailed by seven points early in the fourth quarter of its Class C North semifinal game Friday against Mattanawcook Academy. There was time left, but with the Eagles in foul trouble, the team’s comeback chances were looking more dire by the minute.Yet GSA, as it has always seemed to do over the course of its four-year run, did enough in the end to pull out a victory. Allowing Mattanawcook to four points over an 11-minute span between fourth quarter and overtime, the Eagles came away with a 45-39 win to advance to another Northern Maine championship game.“You’ve got to win one ugly game in the tournament to win it, and that was an ugly game,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “We were stressed out a lot, and they put a lot of pressure us, but we came back.”This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textGSA’s got a spark early in the game from Caden Mattson, who drew a charge on the first offensive possession to nullify what would’ve been a Mattanawcook basket. The Lynx answered a Mattson and-one with a 3-pointer, but the junior from Blue Hill responded with a triple of his own to give the Eagles an 8-4 lead.The Eagles’ energy did translate into some early foul trouble, though, with leading scorer Andrew Szwez picking up his second with 3:06 left in the first quarter and Percy Zentz doing the same two minutes later. Second-ranked GSA (18-3) struggled from the floor offensively with the two forwards out of the game, but a strong defensive effort had the Eagles in front 19-18 at the break.“We were very resilient,” Mattson said of the team’s performance with Szwez and Zentz watching from the sidelines for much of the first half. “Our bench did great. I’m really proud of all those guys.”GSA players celebrate after the team’s win over Mattanawcook on Feb. 22 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The third-ranked Eagles (18-3) will face No. 4 Houlton (17-4) for the Class C North title Saturday, Feb. 23. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELLIn the second half, GSA got off to a solid start with a Dannenberg jump shot and a layup from Zentz to take a five-point lead. No. 2 Mattanawcook (16-4) then made the game a one-possession contest for much of the third quarter before scoring the final two baskets of the period and adding the first three points of the fourth to pull ahead 36-29.Yet that would be the last time the Lynx scored in the half as GSA provided the final seven points to force overtime. The Eagles took the lead a minute into the extra period on a floater from Szwez before Alex Brown, who provided versatility for Mattanawcook with his seven points, five rebounds, four points and four steals, had to exit with his fifth foul.GSA wouldn’t make another basket the rest of the way, but the Eagles still got plenty of scoring with five made free throws from Szwez and one from Isaac Wardwell. Mattanwcook’s only points of the overtime period came on a fortuitous 3-pointer that banked off the backboard.“I think our experience in the end really paid off,” Carter said. “We knew what do, and we took care of the ball. We just played strong.”Mattson led GSA with 11 points, and Zentz scored 10. Szwez added nine points and secured seven rebounds for the Eagles despite sitting out more than 10 minutes of the first half.“When I was going back in, I just wanted to put everything out there on the floor,” Szwez said. “As a team, we just kept playing our game and running our offense, and we got good looks.”This was the third game this year between GSA and Mattanawcook. After the two teams split the regular season series with the home teams winning tight battles both times, it was only fitting that an overtime period was necessary to decide the rubber match.“They have good athletes,” Carter said of Mattanawcook. “Matchup-wise and personnel-wise, we’re pretty even.”GSA will take on No. 4 Houlton (17-4), which defeated No. 8 Sumner (13-8) 60-34 in the second Class C North semifinal Friday afternoon, in the Northern Maine title game at 8:45 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 23. The Eagles and Shiretowners met in the postseason a year ago with GSA earning a 55-43 win in the regional quarterfinals.With a win, GSA would advance to play in the state title game next at Saturday, March 2, against either Winthrop, the No. 1 seed in Class C South, or Hall-Dale, the No. 3 seed. GSA beat Winthrop 47-44 in the 2017 title game and beat Hall-Dale 64-59 last year to win the Class C crown for the third consecutive season.If the Eagles do return to the state title game for the fourth year in a row, it would be a sensational achievement for a group that lost Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalists Max Mattson and Taylor Schildroth from last year’s team along with another standout player, Stefan Simmons. Win or lose, Carter knows his team has already made a statement by proving it can compete at a championship level.“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be here, but we felt like we could do it and get back to that state game,” Carter said. “We’re getting there, and we have one more to go.”last_img