BANGOR — Ben Walls hit a pair of free throws with 49.4 seconds remaining and the Mount Desert Island Trojan boys survived a second-half comeback by the Camden Hills Windjammers to win their Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal 59-58 at the Bangor Auditorium Saturday.
The undefeated and top-ranked Trojans saw a 14-point third quarter lead disappear as the Windjammers battled back to go ahead 56-50 midway through the fourth period.
But Jayson Burke scored twice and Caleb MacDonald once in the next two minutes to knot the score at 56-all.
Camden Hills twice went back in front by single points as the teams exchanged foul shots.
But after Walls hit his two free throws, neither team got off another shot until Colin Morse of the Windjammers missed the potential game-winner at the buzzer.
“I was just so happy, for the kids and the community,” said choked-up MDI coach Justin Norwood after the game. “When the buzzer went off, I’m a pretty emotional guy and all that emotion just sort of came up.”
Referring to Walls’ “clutch” performance at the foul line, Norwood said, “I just can’t imagine how his heart isn’t pounding out of his chest.”
The coach described a competitive drill at one of MDI’s recent practices, the rule being that whoever makes the last shot to win has to validate the win with a free throw.
“Ben takes an awful shot and it goes in, obviously,” joked Norwood. “And to validate, he takes the shot with his left hand. That’s Ben. He wants it. He wants the ball in that pivotal, high-pressure moment.”
And Saturday he got his wish.
The Trojans got off to a strong start, trailing just once when Morse hit a three-pointer to put the Windjammers up 3-2.
Consecutive baskets by MDI’s MacDonald, Walls and Nick Shaw put the Trojans in front 17-7 and they increased that lead to 19-10 by period’s end.
MacDonald hit a three to open the second quarter, putting MDI in front by 12 points, but the Windjammers inched a bit closer with a pair of three-pointers by Chandler Crans helping slice the Trojan lead to 33-25 by halftime.
MDI kept the pressure on in the third period and consecutive baskets by Walls — one of them a three — and another by MacDonald pushing the lead to 44-30 midway through the quarter.
But the Windjammers closed the period with an 11-0 run as Kyle Ohelnik came off the bench to hit a pair of threes, Adam Carlsen added another and Taylor Hall hit a pair of free throws.
Yet another three, this one by Morse, knotted the score at 46-all to open the fourth period and the teams swapped baskets until Hall hit three consecutive two-pointers to give Camden Hills its biggest lead of the game.
But the Trojans responded as Burke powered up for a two-pointer underneath the basket, MacDonald scored on driving layup and Burke hit a jumper to make the score 56-all with two minutes to go.
Walls finally gave MDI the edge when he hit both ends of a one-and-one at the foul line.
Twenty seconds later, the Trojans turned the ball over on an offensive foul, but MDI gave it right back when Shaw stepped on the out-of-bounds line while trying to bring the ball up the court.
The Trojan defense then took over, refusing to allow a good look at the basket until Morse finally threw up an off-balance shot that was off the mark and MDI’s Adam Gray grabbed the rebound.
Burke and Walls each finished with 14 points and MacDonald had 12 for the 19-0 Trojans, who were scheduled to face the fifth-seeded Presque Isle Wildcats in semifinal action yesterday (Wednesday).
Hall had 19 points and Carlsen scored 13 for the Windjammers, who ended their season with a 12-8 record.
“If I had one word to describe this game, it would be ‘amazing,’” said Norwood. “Never be satisfied, that’s our mantra, and now we’re on to the next.”
Emerson Whitney of the Mount Desert Islander contributed to this story.