For a few tense moments, Friday night’s game against Boothbay looked like it might roll the worst of those two losses into a frustrating third defeat. Instead, it ended up being the kind of gut-check win the Phoenix needed with the Western Class B tournament looming.

Spruce Mountain never trailed, but had to hang on for its life after Boothbay cut a 17-point third-quarter lead to one with 18 seconds remaining. A wild finish went the Phoenix way, as did the 66-64 result in a foul-filled MVC showdown.

“That was really big,” junior forward Deonte Ring said. “We kept our composure and made sure we made our shots at the end of the game.”

Ring finished with a game-high 27 points and five steals to lead the Phoenix (13-2). Andrew Darling added 11 points and Peter Theriault eight points and 10 rebounds. John Hepburn led Boothbay’s rally with 16 of his 19 points in the second half. He also had 13 rebounds.

Boothbay (13-2) had a couple of chances to take the lead after Nick Kilgus’ putback made it 60-59 with 2:08 left.

Andrew Hallinan’s steal gave the Seahawks the ball with 1:44 left, but they turned the ball back over when Hepburn stepped on the baseline driving to the basket.

Theriault scored on a drive and was fouled to make it 62-59. He missed the free throw, but the ensuing loose ball went out of bounds off Boothbay with 1:03 left.

The Seahawks fouled Ring, who converted both free throws with 55 seconds left.

Spruce Mountain shot 25-for-36 from the free throw line (69 percent).

“Our goal was to get to the line because we knew some of their players had quite a few fouls, so we tried to get them out of the game,” said Ring, who scored 10 of his points from the charity stripe.

Hepburn, playing with four fouls the entire fourth quarter, answered with two freebies at his end, and Ring made one of two at the line for a four-point lead with 33 seconds to go.

Hepburn made it a one-point game again with a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left. Boothbay stole the ensuing inbounds pass and got the ball inside to Hepburn for a layup that rolled off the front of the rim. Spruce rebounded and Boothbay fouled Ring with 5.9 seconds left.

Ring made the first and missed the second. Boothbay ended up with the ball in front of the Phoenix bench with time for one last shot, but Darling stole the inbounds pass at half-court to run out the clock.

“I’m really proud of my guys for pulling it out because they easily could have folded,” Spruce Mountain coach Chris Bessey said. “That would have been a tough loss.”

The Phoenix built the lead with excellent defense, particularly in a first half in which they held Hepburn, the MVC’s leading scorer, without a field goal and limited Boothbay to 5-for-25 (20 percent) shooting from the floor.

“Everything (Hepburn) took was contested,” said Bessey, who used a combination of Andrew York, James Ouellette and Tyler Kachnovich to guard Boothbay’s big man. “There was nothing open. We were keeping him off the boards. He’s a great player.”

“We knew we had to box out on Hepburn,” Ring said. “They had, like, 30 offensive rebounds the first game, so we knew we had to outrebound them.”

Ring attacked the offensive glass to put back his own miss as the Phoenix built a 14-point lead in the first half.

Boothbay trimmed the deficit to 10 by halftime and eight early in the third quarter. But Ouellette (seven points, seven rebounds off the bench) sparked an 8-0 Spruce run with a 3-point play and a foul-line jumper. A Theriault jumper and York free throw made it 45-28 with 3:15 left in the third.

The Seahawks cut the deficit to 11 heading into the fourth. Evan Hepburn (13 points) fouled out 1:10 into the quarter, but replacement Abel Breyer scored on a putback and Hallinan scored back-to-back hoops to make it a four-point game with 5:26 remaining.

After York fouled out, Kilgus drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Seahawks within three.

“We were more aggressive, I think, in the second half,” Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said. “We were a little more aggressive defensively and we were attacking more offensively. We were very passive in the first half, and I had two starters sitting on the bench (with foul trouble) the whole second quarter. That hurt.”


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