PORTLAND — Considering the recent warm weather, the opponent, the Portland Expo’s proximity to Fitzpatrick Stadium and his own autumnal role as the school’s football coach, it’s easy to understand why York basketball coach Randy Small had pigskin on his mind Saturday.

“It seemed like football season because we had a week to prepare,” he said. “I told the kids they won this in practice. We have had an incredible week of practice.”

York was well-prepared for another traditional football power, Leavitt, making its first appearance at the Expo, and held off the valiant Hornets, 52-47, in the Western Class B boys’ quarterfinals. The third-seeded Wildcats (15-4) will face No. 2 Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals Thursday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

No. 6 Leavitt finishes its winningest season in five decades at 14-5. But the Hornets, many of whom played for the state football championship three months ago a few yards away at Fitzpatrick, with Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway as their coach, couldn’t quite match the Wildcats’ practice pattern because of injuries and illness.

“We’ve been in the film room three times,” Small said. “They had a 24-page scouting report. They’ve studied it. They’ve learned it. They say nothing. They just go to work. They’re a practice team.”

Kyle Robinson and Aaron Todd combined for all 18 of York’s points in the fourth quarter. Robinson scored all 11 of his in the final period, while Todd proved too tough to stop in the paint and finished with a game-high 15 points despite early foul trouble.

“Liam (Langaas) and Kyle were giving me easy looks,” Todd said. “I was getting wide-open layups.”

Leavitt’s inability to shut off York’s guard penetration proved costly early and late. With Lucas Witham hobbled after diving into a table for a loose ball, the Hornets found keeping Langaas (seven assists) tough to handle off the dribble, and York built a 19-10 lead in the second quarter.

“A lot of our game-plan was really centered around Lucas taking Langaas, and when he got hurt, that pretty much eliminated that,” Hathaway said. “It took us a while to adjust. We had to change our match-ups a little bit. I felt once we got settled in with that we did a better job.”

Free-throw shooting, which went the Hornets’ way through the first three quarters, burned them in the fourth. They missed six of seven from the charity stripe in the fourth after starting 6-for-9. The Wildcats, meanwhile, started the game 3-for-12, and usually missed badly when they missed. Robinson and Todd combined to go 6-for-8 in the fourth, however, and that proved to be the difference.

“It’s tough, when your legs are tired and you’re in this pressure situation, it’s tough for any kid,” Small said. “They’re kids, and sometimes we forget that.”

Leavitt trailed throughout until a Tyler Walton 3-pointer made it 32-31 late in the third. Tim Dow, playing with a partially torn hamstring, added a pair of 3s early in the fourth to give the Hornets their largest lead at 39-36.

Leavitt led 46-45 on a Jordan Hersom hoop with 2:45 remaining, but that would prove to be its last field goal. York’s trapping defense led to three critical turnovers in the fourth quarter. Robinson was fouled after one steal and converted both to put the Wildcats in front for good with 2:10 remaining.

“Kyle and Liam wanted to do a little half-court trap. It was a good suggestion,” Small said.

“We pressed them a little harder and I was seeing the ball more, reading their eyes and where they were going to pass it,” Robinson said. “We had a great fast break.”

Following a Leavitt miss, York called time and set up a Todd hoop to make it 49-46 with 1:05 remaining. After another Hornet miss, the Wildcats elected to step on the gas rather than burn the clock and got Robinson the clinching layup.

“The times that we pressed them, they did a good job of breaking down our pressure for layups,” Hathaway said. “They turned us over a couple of times with their 1-3-1 in the fourth quarter, but then after that I thought we broke it down and got some good looks.”

Hersom led Leavitt with 11 points, while Kyle Smith chipped in with 10 points.


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