WINTHROP — Most points wins, but in scoring was easier said than done during Wednesday’s Class C/D central Maine basketball tournament semifinal.

Winthrop stopped scoring with more than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, but its defense did its job late in the game, and the top-seeded Ramblers held on to beat fifth-seeded Spruce Mountain 41-38 to punch their ticket to the C/D boys title game.

“It’s a classic Winthrop-Spruce game, in terms of it might be a little ugly but it’s going to go down to the wire and we’re going to battle, and whoever scores the most of the limited amount of points wins,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said.

Logan Baird’s transition layup off an Ian Steele steal and assist gave the No. 1 Ramblers a temporarily comfortable 41-33 lead.

“Our turnovers got us in that position,” Phoenix coach Scott Bessey said. “They had a lot of runouts off our live-ball turnovers, and we could have folded but they didn’t. They didn’t give up and they kept fighting, and they kept fighting, and it came down to having to make a play the end, and we didn’t make it.”

Camden Phillips’ 3-pointer cut Winthrop’s lead to 41-36, and Lorne Grondin’s layup with two minutes left made it a one-possession game. The Ramblers tried to run clock out, only to turn the ball over out of a timeout with less than 45 seconds to play. Winthrop was able to force a Phoenix turnover, but then committed another turnover with 7.6 seconds left. One last attempt by Spruce to tie missed, and the Ramblers were finally able to run out the final ticks.

“We’ve been in a lot of these situations from the past couple years,” Winthrop senior guard Gavin Perkins said. “Like close games, coming down the stretch, you just got to slow it down, get the good shots, get defensive stops, and buckle down and take it.”

Perkins scored 11 points, including four in the third when Winthrop went from trailing 24-23 to leading 37-30 going into the fourth. Noah Grube, who scored a game-high 12 points, and Brayden Stubbert also had four apiece in the frame.

MacArthur gave his team some motivation at halftime after an uneven second quarter.

Winthrop’s Noah Dunn, left, and teammate Gavin Perkins pressure Spruce Mountain’s Camden Phillips as he outlets the ball during a Class C/D central Maine semifinal game Wednesday night in Winthrop. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I think they needed to understand the sense of urgency that they were in. If they didn’t produce in the second half, their season was done,” MacArthur said. “And I don’t care if it’s a COVID year or a regular season, if you lay everything on the line and let the kids hear it, if you can get 5% more effort out of them, it might make the difference.”

Spruce Mountain’s Bradley Shamba scored seven of his eight points in the first quarter to help the Phoenix keep within striking distance at 12-9.

“His energy is infectious. His energy, it’s uncoachable. You don’t coach that. He’s got an amazing motor,” Bessey said.

Jordan Blanche made a trio of 3s in the second quarter for Spruce Mountain, accounting for all of his nine points. The last of those three treys gave Spruce a 22-21 lead with 1:45 to play before halftime.

Stubbert had a steal and layup to give Winthrop the lead back with 5.4 seconds left in the second, but Elie Timber’s layup at the buzzer gave the Phoenix the advantage at intermission.

Winthrop’s Gavin Perkins, center, cuts through Spruce defenders Lorine Grondin, left, and Camden Phillips during a Class C/D central Maine semifinal game Wednesday night in Winthrop. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“The shot at the halftime buzzer I thought energized us quite a bit,” Bessey said. “But they’re a great defensive team. We’re limited a little bit with our guard position, so trying to not turn it over against that pressure was a tall task. We turned it over a lot, but it never affected our effort and our energy, and I’m proud of that.”

Phillips matched Blanche with a team-high nine points for the Phoenix.

The Ramblers next take on No. 2 Madison in Friday’s tournament final.

“We know each other well,” MacArthur said. “We’ve already played them twice this year, one was a scrimmage and then one was a regular season game, and both of them were barnburners.”

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