AUGUSTA – Richmond Junior-Senior High School inspired a sense of awe among most of its vanquished East-West Conference opponents this winter. Fellow unbeaten and independent outsider Gould Academy merely bestowed the Bobcats with healthy respect.

That’s one reason why No. 2 Gould captured its sixth Western Class D boys’ basketball title and first since 1982 with a 50-42 victory Saturday over defending champion and No. 1 Richmond at Augusta Civic Center.

As for other reasons, start with an uncharacteristic seven 3-pointers, all in a 10-minute span of the first half. Throw in a smothering, swivel-headed defense that frustrated Richmond into 4-for-30 shooting after the break. And let’s not forget the Huskies’ heady play in the face of foul trouble for the third straight game.

“We just kept strong as a team,” said Ian Siekman, a 6-foot-5 forward and one of Gould’s five senior starters. “Everybody played a lot during the season, and everybody is capable of stepping up.”

Gould (17-0) will face Deer Isle-Stonington for the Class D championship at 3 p.m. Saturday in Bangor. Richmond, which lost 79-55 to Central Aroostook in last year’s state final, finishes at 19-1.

Seth Gray led Gould with 16 points, including four 3-pointers in the early outburst from downtown. Sophomore Scot Baribeau knocked down a pair and Siekman sank another to keep Gould within one, 32-31, at the half.

“We have guys who can hit those shots,” said Gould coach Todd Siekman, “but it’s usually about three in a game. For some reason we were just on fire. It was great.”

The Huskies’ half-court offense didn’t set the world ablaze in the second half, but it didn’t matter with Richmond’s typically explosive inside-outside game screeching to a halt. Richmond scored only five points in each quarter after intermission.

Marc Zaharchuk concluded with 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots to lead Richmond, and Kyle Lancaster chipped in 12 points and four steals. They were the only Bobcats to score in the second half. Richmond starters Brandon Lancaster and Erik Nash were shut out.

“They just played tight man-to-man, and we went man-to-man after they hit the threes in the first half,” Brandon Lancaster said. “It was sort of a deadlock after that. It’s tough. The ball just didn’t seem to want to go in for us, and it did for them. They have four good players who can all shoot.”

Gould couldn’t take advantage of its repeated defensive stops until early in the fourth period, when its own 2-for-8 cold snap ended in a pull-up jumper by Siekman that tied it at 37. Two free throws by T.L. Tutor put the Huskies ahead for good with 4:25 left, triggering an 11-3 game-ending run.

Shackled again by foul difficulties, Tutor scored six of his eight points in the fourth period. He added six rebounds and five assists and won the John Messina Award as the most valuable player and sportsman of the tournament. Dino Slayton was the last Gould player to win the award 25 years ago.

Bruens and Siekman each scored nine points for Gould. Bruens provided the exclamation point with 1:31 left, flagging down a baseball pass from Gray at the end line and flinging the ball across his body, over his head and into the basket for a how-did-he-do-that lay-up.

“It was either that or travel or let the ball go out of bounds,” said Bruens, whose hoop gave Gould a 47-42 cushion.

Neither team led by more than six points until the closing seconds. The lead changed hands six times in the second quarter.

Both teams had cause for concern after the frenetic first-half pace. Gould couldn’t sustain its near perfection from behind the arc, while Richmond showed a tendency to lean on the 6-foot-10 Zaharchuk (13 points in the first half) when outside shots wouldn’t fall.

“We played Rangeley and we watched them play Rangeley,” Todd Siekman said, “and we felt that their weaknesses played to our strengths.”


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