AUGUSTA — With the Augusta Civic Center almost empty late Friday night, Zach Gilpin exited the arena with five words.
“Back to back to back,” Gilpin yelled as he stepped out a side exit.
Indeed, Gilpin and top-seeded Hampden Academy made it three Eastern A titles in a row with a resounding 82-54 win over No. 6 Oxford Hills.
The Broncos (21-0) have now won 43 in a row and will try to make it back-to-back state titles next week against the winner of Saturday night’s Western A final between Portland and Bonny Eagle.
Gilpin dominated from the start, finishing with 38 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s a good feeling for sure. We’re really excited about it,” Gilpin said. “I was just trying to help my team as best I could. They were getting me the ball in places I could score. It was a great team win tonight.”
Isaiah Bess added 13 points for the Broncos. Senior Luke Davidson led the Vikings (13-8) with 16 points and eight boards, while sophomore Andrew Fleming added 11 points and seven rebounds in a foul-plagued final game.
The Vikings were one of the few teams to give Hampden a game during the regular season, losing 66-58 on Feb. 1. But the Broncos made 15 of 25 shots (60 percent) in the first half Friday night and frequented the foul line (14-for-16 in the first half) while limiting Oxford Hills to 32 percent from the floor.
“I think we shot the ball at a lot higher clip than the last time we faced them,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said. “I think we came out with a bunch of guys that are seniors and ready to play in a big game, and they showed their poised and played real well.”
Oxford Hills had the top seed in its sights for the first 10 minutes of the final.
Gilpin’s 12 first-quarter points helped stake the Broncos to an early 17-8 lead, but the Vikings climbed back to within four on Fleming’s baseline jumper and a pair of Davidson free throws with 6:43 left in the first half.
Then the fouls started to pile up for Oxford Hills. Matt Beauchesne drew his third, then Rice and Fleming picked up their third.
“We were hanging in, then the fouls,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “They were clearly better than we were. I don’t think they’re 40 points better than we are. Obviously, we got all of those guys in foul trouble. I probably should have just played them.”
A drive by Gilpin and Bess’ first four points of the game pushed the lead back to 10. After a Rice free throw, Hampden exploded for the next 20 points, starting with a nice feed from Nick Gilpin to Cam Scott for a layup, then another exchange from Scott to Brendan McIntyre for a layup.
Zach Gilpin followed with eight straight to make it 38-17. The Broncos inflated it to 40-17, then, as if the Vikings’ didn’t have enough of an uphill climb, Gilpin drew Fleming’s fourth foul on a charge.
“I think once he got his fourth foul that was big for us,” Gilpin said. “Fleming’s a great player. I know he’s going to do big things in upcoming years.”
“Our plan was to have Isaiah guard Fleming at the start, with Zach guarding him some also to try to keep fresh legs on him,” Barlett said. “Isaiah got those two quick fouls and we made the adjustment. Zach’s a warrior on both ends for us tonight. Obviously, foul problems on a game like this are huge.”
Davidson finally broke up the run by scoring with a little over a minute left. Tyus Ripley beat the buzzer with a dunk off a steal, but Hampden had a 48-24 lead at the intermission.
Oxford Hills graduates seven seniors, but considers its first visit to the Augusta Civic Center a successful one.
“We’re very proud of our season,” Graffam said. “You look at the tournament as a whole, we had the funnest games to watch with Bangor and Brunswick. We got our kids up here (to Augusta) for the first time. Very proud of those seniors putting Oxford Hills basketball back on the map and looking forward to having a little run now with good athletes and good basketball players.”