BUCKFIELD — Zack Grover didn’t have much time to get a shot off at the end of Saturday’s game. Nor did he have much time to hope, pray and cross his fingers that it would drop.

Grover’s last-ditch effort for the Buckfield boys’ basketball team as it tried to cap a comeback with a last-second victory in its regular season finale was on target, but bounced off the rim and out. Vinalhaven held on for the 46-45 win.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of time,” Grover said. “I had to create the best shot that I could. I thought it had a little bit of a chance. When it hit the rim, I was hoping it would bounce in.”

The Bucks (7-11) will need better fortune to make the playoffs. They sit 12th in Class C South. NYA is right behind them with two games in hand.

“It’s going to come down to NYA and us,” Buckfield coach Mark Thurlow said. “There are a lot of variables that can happen. So it’s going to come down to splitting hairs.”

Buckfield finished its campaign with five straight losses, and now must wait to see if its grip on the final tourney spot holds.

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“It’s nerve-wracking,” Grover said. “I want certain teams to win. It’s really hard to wait. A lot of other teams still have two or three games to go, and we’re all done.”

The Bucks had a chance to bolster their standings against the Vikings this weekend. After a dismal 65-31 loss Friday night, Buckfield produced a better effort and battled back the entire game. The Bucks even had the lead late before the Vikings (11-5) took the lead with 20 seconds left.

“I’m happy as hell,” Thurlow said of his team’s effort. “Last night, it was one of those nights when you miss and you keep hanging your heads. Today, they played better.”

Ethan Jackson led the Bucks with 16 points, including a go-ahead basket with 30 seconds left. Aaron Rowe had nine while Jake Kraske and Grover each had seven. 

Vinalhaven got 14 from Cody Hamilton and 11 each from Max Stanley and Lewis Cray. It was Cray’s shot with 20 seconds left that put the Vikings back ahead for good.

“It was tremendously different than last night,” Vinalhaven coach Josh Miller said. “(Buckfield) came to play today. They really put up a good fight. Our boys had to grind today. It was more of a grind than last night, but they pulled it out.”

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The Bucks tied the game twice in the fourth quarter. Jackson scored on a pull-up jumper to start the fourth, but the Vikings got back-to-back baskets by Cray to open a 39-36 lead. Rowe drilled a 3 to tie it 39-39 with 3:42 left.

The Vikings went ahead again on a Keon Arey free throw and an Ethan Anthony rebound. A steal by Jackson got Buckfield within 42-41 with 1:26 left, but Hamilton scored in the post for a 44-41 lead with 1:10 left.

Buckfield then got a short jumper from Hunter Wiley with 47 seconds left. After a Vikings’ turnover, Grover salvaged a broken play and found Jackson backdoor for the lead basket with 30 seconds remaining.

“I didn’t have my big kid in that usually screens on that play and the kids got confused because I didn’t have any timeouts left,” Thurlow said. “I’d already used them.”

The Vikings retook the lead when Cray hit a short jumper with 20 seconds remaining. Buckfield had a chance on its next possession, but Wiley’s shot didn’t fall with seven seconds left.

“We had a couple of seniors that hit some shots,” Miller said. “They made good decisions.”

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The Bucks got new life in the final seconds after two missed Viking free throws. Grover got the rebound and pushed the ball upcourt. After Vinalhaven knocked an outlet pass out of bounds, the Bucks had just over three seconds left for a final shot. Grover got the ball on the right side for a jumper that didn’t drop.

“Missing those two foul shots made me nervous,” Miller said. “Anything can happen when you throw up a prayer. I was happy to see that he missed it.  We know that all too well because we had a game this year where we came back from 20 points down and one of my guys hit a buzzer-beater to win the game. That’s a hard way to lose a game.”

The Vikings have won five straight and still have two games with Richmond. Vinalhaven was seeded fifth after the wins in Buckfield this weekend.

“These were two important wins for us,” Miller said. “We were in eighth, and we needed these two wins.”

The Vikings jumped out to the early 13-4 lead in the first quarter. The Bucks shot 2-for-12 to start. Buckfield started to rally in the second with seven straight points. After two Grover free throws, Alex Brough scored on a fast break and Kraske hit a 3 to make it 13-11.  The Vikings missed their first six shots from the floor before answering with seven straight of its own. Stanley had back-to-back baskets and set up Hamilton for another. A Hamilton three-point play bumped the lead up to 24-14 late in the first half.

The Bucks mustered another comeback in the third. Buckfield hit seven of its first nine shots and chipped away at the lead. The Bucks finished the quarter with a 10-1 spurt to get within 34-32.

Jackson scored a pair. Then Grover put back a rebound. After a Kraske steal for a hoop, Jackson scored on a cut to the basket.

“I thought we played great,” Thurlow said. “I went with a smaller lineup and we were more active defensively. I thought that was a good effort.”

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