AUGUSTA – All game long, Buckfield kept unbeaten Richmond within arm’s length by taking its sweet time. Then the Bucks simply ran out of time.

No. 5 Buckfield set aside the memory of two, one-sided regular season losses and threw a fright into No. 1 Richmond before bowing to the Bobcats, 52-48, in a Western Class D boys’ basketball semifinal Wednesday at Augusta Civic Center.

Buckfield led for most of the first half, erased the bulk of a 13-point deficit in the second half and went down shooting, missing five prayers that could have made it a one-possession game in the final 20 seconds.

“No regrets about the way we played at all,” said Jamie Henderson, who nailed three 3-pointers in the final 1:31 of regulation. Buckfield’s lone senior finished with a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Richmond (19-0) routed Buckfield 75-47 and 80-46 during the East-West Conference campaign, the latter licking administered only two weeks ago. This time, the Bucks (10-8) employed a deliberate, half-court attack designed to frustrate Richmond’s bevy of perimeter shooters by making them play most of the game with their backs to the wrong basket.

With the notable exception of an 18-2 run spanning the end of the second quarter into the third, Buckfield’s disciplined approach worked like a charm. Richmond took a mere 42 shots, making only two 3-pointers, and 6-foot-10 junior center Marc Zaharchuk was the lone Bobcat in double digits with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Another gray hair,” joked silver-topped veteran coach Paul Lancaster of Richmond, whose team will try to defend its regional title against Gould Academy at 2:45 p.m. Saturday. “We knew we would see a different strategy from them. I figured it might be a slowdown. Those kids knew they weren’t going to be able to run and shoot 3-pointers with us.”

The tactic wasn’t quite a stall, as evidenced by Buckfield’s 13-12 lead after eight minutes and its 20-17 advantage with 4:53 remaining in the half. Henderson, Cy Wilkinson and Zach Cowett did a masterful job playing keep-away in the backcourt and searching for open seams along the baseline and open jumpers at the elbows.

Enjoying so much early success might have given the Bucks a false sense of security. Buckfield went from a single turnover in the first quarter to six in the second. Richmond scored seven unanswered points to punctuate the half, stringing together an inside bucket by Zaharchuk, a 3-pointer by Sam Carter and Brandon Lancaster’s drive for a deuce to mount a 24-20 halftime edge.

“That temptation (to shoot quickly) is there. It’s a big game in front of a big crowd, all your friends and your parents are here, and everybody wants to score points,” said Buckfield coach Cam Cowett. “For these kids to come in here and have the discipline to do what they did says a lot about this team. They really bought into this the last couple of days.”

Richmond squirmed away in the third quarter, allowing Buckfield only one field goal in the first five minutes while getting five points from Zaharchuk, four in transition from Kyle Lancaster and an Erik Nash lay-up to make it 35-22.

The lead stayed at 13 when Zaharchuk scored to christen the fourth quarter. Buckfield battled back on the strength of seven straight points from Andrew Litchfield, Wilkinson and John Condon, and five missed free throws by the Bobcats left the window open in the waning moments.

“I know we’ll be practicing those,” Zaharchuk said. “They’re a good team. They played to win. We expected nothing less.”

Zach Cowett concluded with 11 points and Condon 10 for Buckfield. Among Glendon Kendrick’s seven points for Richmond came the 1,000th of his career.


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