LIVERMORE FALLS — High school basketball teams have used the now-or-never theme as motivational fodder ever since the year someone had the bright idea to saw the bottom out of the peach basket.

Ten seniors and a school whose days are numbered put it to more efficient use than most Wednesday night.

Of all the things that went wrong for Livermore Falls in the second half, the most important one didn’t. The No. 8 Andies never lost the lead, riding a wave of late-game lockdown defense to a 39-35 Western Class C preliminary round victory over No. 9 St. Dom’s.

Livermore Falls (12-7) didn’t allow a field goal over the final 4:40, earning a date with No. 1 Dirigo in the regional quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. Monday in Augusta.

“This was our last chance,” Livermore Falls senior Bryan Maurais said. “Consolidation (with Jay, approved by area voters Jan. 25) and everything, we knew we had to get it.”

Dirigo defeated Livermore Falls in last year’s Western final.

The two littlest Andies were primarily responsible for allowing the Andies to nurse a 24-16 halftime lead.

Maurais, a 5-foot-7 sixth man not necessarily known for his scoring, hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter.

He had all eight Livermore Falls points in the period, matching St. Dom’s team output and producing a 32-24 cushion with eight minutes to play.

“Something got into me,” Maurais said, noting that the Andies went the first five minutes without a point. “I was sick of it. I wanted to put a stop to it. I had confidence. Whatever it takes. Whoever puts it in the basket.”

At the other end, Maurais also played stopper, holding the Saints’ Kurt Johnson to two points after the senior erupted for six in the first quarter.

Hunter Brett, Livermore Falls’ 5-9 point guard, scored five of his 11 points in the fourth.

His two free throws gave the Andies a lift during an 0-for-10 start from the field. Later, his spinning drive after a Mike Castonguay steal gave Livermore Falls a 38-35 edge with 1:10 to play.

“It makes a lot of difference,” Brett said of the Andies‘ prior playoff experience. “It makes you want to make it there even more. It’s the last shot.”

Brett added another free throw with 38 seconds remaining. And while the Andies missed their last three from the line, including the front end of two one-and-ones, St. Dom’s couldn’t summon the magic of its six-game winning streak to end the regular season

St. Dom’s (9-10) was called for traveling and missed twice on its final three possessions.

“We were down one with a free throw to tie it (at the 2:13 mark) and missed. We had the ball underneath our basket with a set play and turned it over,” St. Dom’s coach Ryan Deschenes said. “I believe if we got the lead we would have won the game. We just played catch-up too much.”

Mike Armstrong led Livermore Falls with 11 points and 20 rebounds, but St. Dom’s shut him out in the second half. He suffered from leg cramps in the fourth quarter and finished the game on the bench.

The Saints also silenced two of the Andies’ primary offensive threats, containing Castonguay to five points and a dozen boards and keeping Mike Anctil off the board entirely.

“St. Dom’s did a great job. They definitely should feel good about their season,” Livermore Falls coach Travis Magnusson said. “They had a great run and a great game plan. Coach Deschenes made great adjustments at halftime and totally took us out of what we wanted to do. They pressured the heck out of us. They made everything difficult.”

Tom Applegate matched Johnson with eight points and snagged a team-high 13 rebounds to top the Saints. Joe Bryant added seven points.

Shooting started slowly and got progressively worse for both teams. Livermore Falls was 5-of-24 in the second half and 16-for-52 (31 percent) overall. St. Dom’s went 3-for-13 in the fourth quarter and 14-of-48 (29 percent) on the night.

In addition to the fateful free throw and the turnovers, St. Dom’s also missed shots on two straight fourth-quarter possessions that would have tied or put the Saints in front.

St. Dom’s only leads of the night were 2-0 and 9-8. Armstrong’s 3-point play erased the latter deficit and put Livermore Falls on top 11-9 at the end of one.

Ben Keene and Sam Chabot each had a bucket to complement two apiece by Brett and Armstrong in the second period. Brett’s two last-minute steals cemented the Andies’ advantage at intermission.

“I think just slowing it down, playing our game definitely helped,” Brett said. “They made some shots. They made some plays. They played great. We just played our game, and it came out right at the end.”

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