PORTLAND — The Class B South boys basketball quarterfinal game was neck and neck between third-seeded York and sixth-seeded Spruce Mountain for the first three quarters, until York pulled away on a 12-point run to secure a 50-37 win at the Portland Expo on Friday.

The Wildcats took a 28-27 lead into the fourth quarter, then used a 12-0 run in the final frame to punch their ticket to the regional semifinals Tuesday, where they’ll face No. 2 Lincoln Academy.

York (16-3) coach Jerry Hill said he’s most proud of the team’s chemistry, both at Friday’s game and throughout the regular season.

“I mean, they work hard every day and work together,” Hill said. “They’re unselfish; it’s just a great group of kids. That team chemistry and unselfishness — they don’t care about who the leading scorer is. We’ve had legit five, maybe even six different leading scorers this season, so I think that’s the basis of who we are.”

York senior captain Derek Parsons (11 points for the game) started the scoring off with a quick 3-pointer just four minutes in, and the Wildcats added another bucket to start the game on a five-point scoring run. Cai Dougher responded for the Phoenix (12-7) quickly with a trey of his own. This back-and-forth battle continued for three quarters, with both teams battling for the lead by a one-to-two-point margin.

Spruce Mountain excelled on rebounds, with Jace Bessey consistently grabbing the ball at the rim. The junior is “the most experienced player” on the court for Spruce Mountain, according to Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey, who is also his father.


“He’s our most skilled, talented player, and probably our most experienced player at this point,” Bessey said. “I think the kids love him, I think the younger kids love him, but I think he’s got to work a little bit more on leadership-type stuff, because he’s been just the talent on the floor. Now, he’s just got to dive into raising kids, really.”

Jace Bessey is one of four upperclassmen on the team this season, and coach Bessey said being a younger team was challenging, but allowed the team to bond.

“I’m most proud of this team for sticking together. I mean, it’s been a really tough schedule,” Scott Bessey said. “We never turned on each other, we battled every single night, came to practice and faced a lot of adversity to start the season, which could have broke us.

“I’m proud of the experienced game for a young basketball team — being able to play meaningful, competitive minutes on this floor as a freshman or sophomore is huge, so the future is very bright for us.”

York’s roster has 10 upperclassmen, and three senior captains. Hill said he’s never had a better group of seniors during his tenure as coach. During Friday’s game, the team readjusted between the third and fourth quarters to put up 23 points in the fourth, as opposed to nine in the third. This charge was led by senior Connor Roberge (team-high 14 points), junior Ryan Cummins (eight points) and junior Lukas Bouchard (10 points).

“We started to go more to the pick-and-roll instead of playing offense against their zone. It’s a big basis of our offense,” Hill said. “We said we’re just going to do it, and obviously it worked, and we found some open guys and they made the shots. Really it wasn’t a big deficit. The shots we weren’t making earlier, we started to.”


Roberge said the unfamiliar court, Spruce’s defensive style and the pressure of the playoffs all factored into the pre-game nerves for the Wildcats, but the team was able to rely on the seniors. He also said the atmosphere of the fans helped bring the team’s energy up to new heights.

“The fans are definitely electric,” Roberge said. “You know, it’s really fun to play with them when you make a stop or a big 3 or something like that. They keep bringing you up, so it just feels amazing.”

A key moment for Roberge was his six made free throws, finishing on all six attempts. He said he’s “always been pretty confident” when it comes to foul shooting, and credited Hill for allocating ten minutes at the end of each practice for players to shoot foul shots, which helped Roberge lock in the right mentality to make each one.

Roberge also said watching the seniors two years ago lose at the Expo in the playoffs was hard, and he knew as a senior he did not want to face the same outcome, driving him to push even harder in Friday’s game.

“I was here when I was a sophomore, and I saw how hard it was for our seniors to lose in the quarterfinals, so I think just having that experience really helped us get this win,” Roberge said. “Our role as captains is to just pick them up, make them take their shots. They don’t come in with confidence, so we just have to bring their confidence up. Having really good chemistry really helps our team get these wins.”

Sophomore Reece MacDonald finished with seven points for the Wildcats, and hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter which kickstarted the game’s momentum shift, according to Hill.


“It was close, and then to just go on a huge run and win the game was just a great feeling for us,” MacDonald said. “It’s not the end for us. We have a good chance of winning states.”

MacDonald said the team was not hitting their shots in the beginning, starting with 12 points in the first quarter and only adding seven in the second and nine in the third. Once the tides turned and two 3-pointers sank, the Wildcats were able to finally pull away and get the win.

“Honestly, the goal for our team, it’s not to win the first round or the second, you know,” MacDonald said. “It’s to do our best to win the state championship, because we know that as a team, we’re capable. We can play with any team.”

He also said he’s most proud of the team’s perseverance, especially in the fourth quarter when Spruce was up by two points and looked like they might take the win.

“There’s obviously some very good teams, but we’re going to keep our goal where it is,” Hill said. “We’re trying to get to the top of the mountain.”

Scott Bessey said the Phoenix faced considerable challenges to their style of play, with star shooter Jace Bessey (team-high 14 points) hitting his head on the court in the first half, as well as Dougher (11 points) fouling out in the fourth quarter on a “very, very, very tough charge called against him.”


“(Cai’s) our only size, our only length, and when he went out, fouled out, that changed the game really unfortunately,” Scott Bessey said.

Despite the loss, Scott Bessey said he is still incredibly proud of the young team this year, and said the two seniors — four-year varsity player Ian York and forward Griffin Achorn — will be greatly missed.

“Ian’s played varsity for four years and he’s going to finish second all-time for the school in 3-point makes,” Bessey said. “We’re going to miss him on the basketball court, for sure.

“They’re both there every single day, they practice every day, they work hard every single day and they’re reliable. They’re great teammates and we’re going to miss them as people, I think, more than as basketball players.”

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