Hall-Dale High School’s Ashtyn Abbott, right, runs into Traip High School’s Charlie Driscoll during their Class C South quarterfinal Saturday in Augusta. (Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal)
AUGUSTA — The Hall-Dale boys basketball team was in trouble. Or at least the scoreboard said as much.
The Bulldogs themselves never fretted.
“If you’ve watched us, you know that we always make a run in the second half,” guard Jett Boyer said. “We’ve always been in this kind of situation throughout the season. It’s nothing different at all.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs showcased that resilience Monday night, getting a go-ahead jumper from Ashtyn Abbott and two 3-pointers from Boyer to ice a 68-58 victory over No. 8 Traip Academy in the Class C South quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.
Hall-Dale trailed the upset-minded Rangers by eight points at halftime, and by a point with fewer than four minutes to go in the game. But the Bulldogs (18-1) found a way to sidestep the upset trend that nipped Dirigo and Waynflete earlier in the day.
“We knew that both teams were going to make runs,” Boyer said. “We were fortunate enough to make the bigger run and come away with the win.”
Alec Byron led Hall-Dale with 20 points, while Abbott added 17, Boyer had 11 and Tyler Nadeau scored nine.
Charlie Driscoll led Traip (10-10) with 20 points, while Will Stuart had 14 and Jordan Polanco had 12.
CLUTCH DOWN THE STRETCH: Hall-Dale survived Traip’s initial push to turn a 38-30 halftime deficit into a 49-46 lead by the end of the third quarter, but the Rangers breathed new life into their upset bid when an 11-2 run turned a 54-46 deficit into a 57-56 lead on Polanco’s 3-pointer with 5:27 to go, and then when Stuart tied the game at 58 at the free throw line with 2:58 remaining.
Needing an answer, the Bulldogs looked to their star forward. Abbott, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half, took a pass at the left elbow, spun and knocked down the jumper to put Hall-Dale ahead 60-58 with 2:30 to play.
“He’s always ready,” Byron said. “He wants to be that guy that hits that shot in crunch time. He’s just been big for us this year.”
A Boyer rebound ended Traip’s try for an answer, and the senior then swished a 3-pointer from the left to make it 63-58 with 1:43 left. Boyer struck again with 1:14 to go, knocking down another 3-pointer – this time from the right corner – to bump the lead to 66-58 and start the celebration on the Hall-Dale bench.
“When it’s a game as close as that, it’s pretty surreal to hit two big shots,” Boyer said. “It’s definitely a big adrenaline rush. … The crowd was getting into it, the bench was getting into it. Everyone was getting into it.”
DEFENSE STEPS UP: The shots put Hall-Dale ahead, but the Bulldogs’ defense got them there.
After Traip went ahead on Polanco’s 3-pointer, Hall-Dale held the Rangers without a field goal on their final seven attempts of the game.
The Bulldogs also found an answer for Driscoll. The senior surged from the opening tip to 20 points by halftime, but had no points in the second half and fouled out with 3:15 to play.
“He made some great shots, he made some tough shots,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “It wasn’t so much a changeup on him (in the second half) as much as a refocus. ‘Remember, this is what he likes to do. Let’s make him do something he prefers not to do.’ ”
Traip coach Jeremy Paul praised his team’s effort, but acknowledged disappointment at the ill-timed struggles.
“I thought, having been in it through three quarters, we’d find a way to pull it out,” he said. “We just didn’t have (Driscoll’s) leadership to get the best shot.”
BOUNCING BACK: The first half was ugly. Hall-Dale was slow to get back in transition, struggled with turnovers and couldn’t find its shot, hitting only one shot from outside the paint or the block.
But the players weren’t worried. Neither was their coach.
“I think the change is just kind of shifting it into sixth gear, and getting that little bit extra,” said Ranslow, whose team trailed by as many as 10 points and gave up an 8-2 run to end the half. “Not leaving anything behind. I feel like early on it’s a brand-new team, we hadn’t really seen them, you kind of feel them out. We were still feeling them out 12, 14, 16 minutes into the first half, and it was time to get beyond that.”
Needing a spark, the Bulldogs found one in Byron. The junior notched three rebounds, two steals and 10 points in the second half, and seemed to be at the center of every Hall-Dale rally.
“I’ve been struggling with my shot recently, jump shots aren’t falling for me,” he said. “But if I pick it up on the defensive end, which I did a couple of times, I can get steals to easy buckets to get my momentum going … and not only my confidence up, but the team’s confidence up.”
Hall-Dale High School’s Alec Byron, left, looks for an opening through Traip High School’s Charlie Driscoll during their Class C South quarterfinal Saturday in Augusta. (Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal) Hall-Dale High School’s Owen Dupont, left, looks for an opening through Traip High School defenders during their Class C South quarterfinal Saturday in Augusta. (Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal)