AUGUSTA —Maranacook’s lead started melting at an alarming rate in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Western Class C semifinal.
The fifth-seeded Black Bears led by as many as 16 in the third quarter, but with No. 1 Dirigo in the bonus virtually from the start of the fourth, it seemed the Cougars had the means to extend the game and push the Class C newcomers to the brink.
But then the Cougars lost track of Taylor Wilbur for a layup, Kent Mohlar stuck a pull-up jumper and Riley Robinson, who had brought Dirigo back into the game from the free throw line, picked up a technical that was also his fifth personal foul.
Maranacook closed the game with a 15-3 run to pull away and earn a trip to the regional final in its first year in Class C with an 87-71 win at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Black Bears (14-7) will meet No. 3 Waynflete on Saturday for the regional crown. Dirigo ends its season at 18-2.
With Gavin Arsenault harassing Maranacook marksman Taylor Wilbur, the Black Bears needed, and got, big scoring nights from other sources, particularly Cam Brochu (24 points, eight rebounds) and Kent Mohlar (19 points, six rebounds, four steals).
“They knew they had to step up,” said Wilbur, who still had 21 points and nine rebounds. “If they did that, the offensive efforts were going to pick up and the defensive efforts were just going to climb. They knew without them it would be a struggle.”
“We really tried to take away Wilbur,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “We knew how good the other guys were, too, and we kind of had to pick our poison.”
Robinson led Dirigo with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Dylan Kidder added 22 points.
Kidder’s steal and layup and two Robinson free throws pulled the Cougars with six midway through the fourth. Wilbur answered with his only field goal of the quarter, but Kidder scored on a reverse and Robinson hit two more at the line to make it 74-68.
That was as close as Dirigo would get. Brochu scored inside and Mohlar drilled a pull-up jumper to make it 76-68.
A foul by Arsenault escalated in front of the Maranacook bench, and Robinson was given the technical that disqualified him from the game. Jackson hit both technical free throws to put the lead back into double digits for good with 1:37 left.
Magnusson was upset by the call at the time but diplomatic after the game.
“People will complain but the refs did a great job,” Magnusson said. “Those were three very good refs, three refs that I’d love to have for any big game. (The Black Bears) were just a little more aggressive.”
A hyper-kinetic first half that saw 67 shots attempted brought out both teams’ full scoring arsenal. Robinson (10 points in the first quarter) started fast, while Wilbur, who drilled eight 3-pointers in t he quarterfinals, got both of his buckets in the paint. Instead, it was Hutchins who had the range going early with two 3-pointers as the Cougars opened a 20-17 lead at the end of the first.
Dirigo led by as much as nine in the second quarter after Kidder put back his own miss. But Maranacook, sparked by a Mohlar 3-pointer, went on a 9-0 run to tie it.
“We’re very balanced, and we have different guys step up on different nights,” said Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt, whose team had just seven turnovers for the game. “We’re pretty hard to stop because you can’t focus on one player.”
Maranacook scored the final five points of the half to take a four point lead into the break, then came out firing to start the second half. They made their first four 3-pointers, two by Jackson (14 points), one each by Wilbur and Richie Hall, to take a 61-46 lead.
“We just talked about putting 16 minutes together in that second half and they bought into it,” Schmidt said. “They knew it and they wanted to win it and they put the effort in to win this game.”