AUGUSTA — It was perhaps the wildest shot of the tournament so far — so wild, in fact, that Dustin Zamboni didn’t give it a chance

Late in the first quarter of the Mt. Abram boys basketball team’s 67-49 Class C South quarterfinal win over Old Orchard Beach on Monday, the Roadrunners’ Payton Mitchell was thrown off balance while shooting. A whistle was called for the foul, but there was no way, Zamboni thought, that the miracle toss would drop.

“I had already looked away,” said Zamboni, Mt. Abram’s head coach. “I knew he got the foul and was going to the line to shoot free throws, and I was happy with that. I thought there was no way that would go in.”

The “outrageous” one-handed shot, as Zamboni would immediately discover by gauging the reaction of the Mt. Abram crowd, did go in as it went high off the glass before finding nylon. It re-energized a Roadrunners team that used a strong fourth quarter to clinch a semifinal berth Friday against top-ranked Dirigo.

Despite Mitchell scoring seven early points for fifth-ranked Mt. Abram (17-3), Old Orchard Beach hung right with the Roadrunners early. Mt. Abram didn’t lead by more than one possession until a Logan Dube layup in the dying second of the first quarter put the Roadrunners up 17-13 entering the second.

From there, No. 4 Old Orchard Beach (16-3) would endure a scoring drought of six minutes — and Mt. Abram took advantage. With Kaden Pillsbury scoring nine points to key a 13-0 run, the Roadrunners would go up double digits, leading by as many as 18 in the first half to take a 36-22 lead into the break.


“I think it all really started in the second with our defense,” said Mitchell, who led all scorers on the evening with 20 points. “I think we held them to like six points in the second quarter, and we just kept going off that. We tried not to let them go on any runs (so we could) keep the score the way it was.”

For much of the third quarter, Mt. Abram did so as it stayed ahead of an Old Orchard Beach team that reverted to the mean following the scoring drought by double digits. Yet with the Roadrunners leading 45-30, the Seagulls scored eight straight points to pull within seven for the first time since the opening seconds of the second quarter.

Then, moments after going 1 of 2 from the free-throw line, Mitchell hit the shot that sent the blue-and-yellow half of the Augusta Civic Center wild. It put Mt. Abram back up double digits entering the fourth quarter, in which the Seagulls never got closer than six points as the Roadrunners pulled away down the stretch. 

“It was crazy; I tried to get the foul and just try to get some sort of shot off, and it just happened to go in,” Mitchell said. “You could tell the momentum really went toward us (after) that one. … It was definitely a big play.”

Tucker Plouffe (15 points, eight in the fourth quarter), and Pillsbury (14 points, nine in second quarter) and Logan Dube (11 points) all joined Mitchell in double figures for Mt. Abram. Landen Johnson scored 14 points to lead Old Orchard Beach.

Mt. Abram knew it would have its hands full against an Old Orchard Beach team with three tall, athletic seniors in Johnson, Brady Croteau and Diamond Hakizimana. It was a tough matchup for the Roadrunners to draw as the No. 5 seed, but the balanced offensive efforts and by-and-large defensive success proved more than enough.

“We came out of a tough prelim with Hall-Dale, and we knew coming in here would be another tough one against a good 4 seed,” Zamboni said. “It’s also a little tough to gauge because they play mostly teams down in southern Maine that we don’t play, but we really got it done by being disciplined on both sides of the ball.”

Mt. Abram, like Carrabec and Monmouth Academy teams that won their respective games earlier Monday, is historically a team that’s been among C South’s also-rans. After reaching the semis a year ago, the Roadrunners will be looking to do one better in 2023 against an 18-1 Dirigo team that beat them 67-65 and 75-70 earlier in the season.

“We’ve already played Dirigo (twice), and we feel like we know what we need to do to beat them this time,” said Mitchell. “We’re all confident going into that game.”

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