PORTLAND — 1-4. 4-6. 6-8.
If you tracked Poland Regional High School’s record and its corresponding Heal Point position during the Class B West boys’ basketball season, a run to the regional championship game was the last thing on your mind.
“We talked about it a lot this summer. Then the beginning of the year we didn’t jell, we didn’t get things going, really until the last four games,” Poland coach Tyler Tracy. “Better late than never.”
Poland (12-8) has won as many games since Jan. 28 as it did before that mile post.
The sixth-seeded Knights delivered the two biggest victories in the past week, guaranteeing themselves one more short turnpike trip to Cumberland County Civic Center for today’s title game against No. 1 Greely.
Tip-off is scheduled for approximately 3:45 p.m., or 20 minutes after the awards ceremony that follows the girls’ final between Lake Region and Wells.
While the Knights were never in any real danger of missing the playoffs, in retrospect, it sounded like a good sales pitch at the time.
A 58-52 road loss to York — another school in the six-teams-for-seven-spots scramble in the bottom end of the Heals — was the official gateway to desperation mode.
“Coach talked to us about our playoff chances,” senior guard Tyler Michaud. “We knew after the York game we had to get Cape (Elizabeth) and then a couple more big wins to end the season. Once we got them, we knew we had a chance to come here and do some damage.”
Poland traveled to Cape and solidified its hopes with a 57-45 win.
“We went into the Cape game, Wells had just gotten a big win over Fryeburg, and we needed to win one of the next three,” Tracy said. “We hadn’t been playing very well, and it was just all of a sudden something clicked. We beat Cape and kind of won out from there, and now we’re playing well.”
Wins over Wells, Lake Region and Gray-New Gloucester were the tune-up for an unforgettable tournament run.
If No. 1 Greely (19-1) looks formidable, consider that No. 3 Spruce Mountain and No. 2 Morse already have been victims of Poland’s February surge. Poland led each game by 15 and 13 points, respectively, before riding out a late storm.
“We get ahead of ourselves and do things like make passes we shouldn’t be making, but at the end of the game we find a way to get it done,” Michaud said.
In only its third appearance in the quarterfinal round, Poland picked up its first-ever victory in the tournament proper, 77-69, over the Phoenix.
That was nothing compared to the high drama of Thursday’s semifinal. Leading Morse 45-32 with just under five minutes remaining, the Knights surrendered 12 unanswered points before Michaud stole the Shipbuilders’ inbounds pass with 4.7 seconds remaining to preserve the championship berth.
Poland has prospered from the inside, out. Josh Gary, a 6-foot-4 senior, and Alan Young, a 6-foot-3 junior, have averaged double-digit scoring throughout the tournament while dominating the boards.
That has created opportunities for C.J. Martin, who scored 25 against Spruce Mountain, and Michaud, who provided a huge 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to build the lead over Morse.
“Our post players are pretty tough. When we go inside it opens things up for our perimeter, too,” Tracy said.
Derek Michaud, a junior, has provided a steady presence in the backcourt, while Billy Bickford, Shawn Murphy and John Fossett have been productive off the bench throughout the tourney.
“We have a bunch of guys that can have big nights,” Tracy said.
Greely survived an enormous scare in the quarterfinals, rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to win 41-38 over a team it beat by 30 and 15 points during the regular season.
The semifinal against Yarmouth was a relative breeze, 56-38.
Big man Michael McDevitt, 6-foot-7 and a 1,000-point career scorer, and Bailey Train lead the Rangers. Kyle Wood and Conner Hanley, both 6-4, complete a frontcourt that will test Gary and Young’s mettle.
In the teams’ lone regular-season meeting, Greely won 67-44 at Poland on Dec. 20.