AUGUSTA — The Boothbay boys basketball team was determined to avoid the early exit from the Class C South tournament this year.

The Seahawks did just that. Not that Mt. Abram made it easy.

Ben Pearce scored 18 points, including four big free throws in the final 20 seconds, Hunter Crocker scored 20 and No. 3 Boothbay beat No. 6 Mt. Abram 59-54 at the Augusta Civic Center on Monday.

Boothbay, which lost to Traip in the quarters last year, improves to 15-4. Mt. Abram, which got 19 points from Hunter Warren, finishes 13-7.

“We were one-and-done last year and we didn’t want that this year,” Pearce said, “so we knew coming into the game that we had to come out firing.”

That Boothbay did, taking a quick 14-4 lead, but the Roadrunners didn’t go away, and after Kenyon Pillsbury (10 points, eight rebounds) made a pair of free throws and Adam Luce scored on a putback, Mt. Abram found itself trailing 55-54 with 23.3 seconds left.

Boothbay had cost itself a chance to all but seal the win with five straight misses at the free-throw line, but Pearce’s steady hand put an end to the struggles. The junior hit a pair to push the lead back to three points, and a Mt. Abram charge and technical foul on the Roadrunners gave the ball back to the Seahawks with 13.9 seconds left.

Pearce missed both technical free throws but made the next two when he was intentionally fouled on the ensuing possession, putting the game out of the Roadrunners’ reach.

“My teammates have confidence in me,” Pearce said. “When I got fouled again (after the technical misses), they were like, ‘You’re the best shooter in the conference, you’re going to make these.'”

When the buzzer sounded, Boothbay players met in a subdued celebration, knowing the close call they had endured.

“It was stressful,” Crocker said. “I’m thrilled for sure. We knew they were going to be tough. … I was just glad. I was stressing about that one.”

For good reason. Mt. Abram, which struggled from the field and couldn’t get star forward Nate Luce (four points, nine rebounds) into a rhythm, nevertheless battled back from the early deficit by living off of steals and fast breaks and crashing the boards.

“We got them out in transition too much,” Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said. “We would have had this thing wrapped up if we took away the transition, and we didn’t.”

A basket by Boothbay’s Nick Morley (eight points, nine rebounds) made it 50-42 with a little more than six minutes to play in the game, but Pillsbury had a basket, Jackson Masterson had another and Warren drove through the lane to make it 50-48 with 3:55 left.

A Sullivan Rice basket and three Morley free throws made it 55-48 with 2:08 left, but Mt. Abram, aided by Boothbay’s struggles at the line, closed the gap again.

Even as the game went down to the wire, the Seahawks were comfortable.

“We played them earlier in the season, and we only beat them by three,” Pearce said. “We’ve been to an overtime game this year against Winthrop, which we ended up losing, but we learn from stuff like that. We’ve been through multiple, multiple close games.”

Mt. Abram coach Dustin Zamboni was proud of his team’s effort in the game, but said the Roadrunners hurt their chances with their inability to hit from the field.

“After that first quarter, when they were taking control of the game, we really battled back hard,” he said. “I thought our defense really stepped up, our overall energy stepped up. Down the stretch, the really unfortunate thing is our shots weren’t falling. A lot of open 3s that didn’t fall, and if we hit one or two of those, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Zamboni also credited his team for its season, which saw the Roadrunners reach their first playoff game at the Augusta Civic Center since 1999.

“I’m definitely proud of these guys,” he said. “(We) understand that it’s going to take some growing pains. Today was a little bit like a growing pain. We’re not used to playing down here. They still came down here and played, there was adversity, and they kept playing.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.