CARIBOU, Maine — The Belfast Lions were able to control a majority of Wednesday’s Class B North preliminary playoff game, but it took some late heroics from an unlikely player to finish the job.
Senior Tyler Bartlett’s second field goal of the game, which came off an offensive rebound with 18 seconds to play, provided the winning margin in the Lions’ 49-48 high school boys basketball victory.
Caribou had the final possession and Alex Bouchard put up a contested jumper as the buzzer sounded, but it was off the mark.
Ninth-seeded Belfast (10-9) will next take on top-ranked Hermon on Saturday in the quarterfinals. No. 8 Caribou ended its season with a 6-13 record.
The Vikings actually held leads on four different occasions during the game — once in the first half and three times after intermission, but were able to keep that advantage for a total of only two minutes as Belfast always seemed to come up with the quick answer.
Freshman Sawyer Deprey hit a fast-break layup to give Caribou its first lead (37-36) of the second half at the 1:05 mark of the third period, but Belfast’s Luke Lightner scored on the next possession.
In the fourth quarter, the Lions forged out in front by five before the Vikes went on a 7-1 run, capped by a conventional 3-point play by the team’s only senior starter, Nick Allen, putting Caribou up 46-45 with 1:47 to play. Dakoda Doolan hit a driving layup for Belfast 15 seconds later before Allen scored inside with 45 seconds to play as the lead seesawed again.
On the next possession, the Lions put the ball in the hands of their top scorer, Stanley Sturgis, who attempted a 15-foot jump shot off the dribble. Bartlett came in from the weak side to snatch the rebound and pivoted in for a layup for the game’s final points.
“It’s something we worked all year for,” Bartlett said. “It all comes down to the last play and we did what we needed to do.
“We’ve got a bunch of great guys on this team and we just help each other out. Our heads are never down,” he added.
Belfast’s 2-3 matchup zone kept Caribou’s offense off balance throughout, and the defense tightened after intermission, allowing only two 3-pointers after giving up five in the first half. The Vikings committed 15 turnovers, compared to eight by Belfast.
“We play a lot of different defenses, but we needed to match up because of their shooters,” said Lions’ coach Marty Messer. “We gave up all those 3-pointers in the first half, but I still thought we were getting out on them pretty good.”
Sturgis ended with a team-high 14 points, 12 which came in the first half, while freshman forward Chris Kelley netted 11 for the winners.
Parker Deprey’s 14 points paced Caribou’s offense.
To begin the game, the Lions reeled off nine consecutive points after Isaac Marker drained a 3-pointer for Caribou on the team’s opening possession. Kelley and Sturgis combined for Belfast’s first 14 points as the visitors maintained the lead.
Turnovers plagued the Vikings throughout the first 16 minutes as they committed seven against the Lions’ zone.
Caribou was able to stay close early on thanks to some more long-range shooting, as Deprey, Bouchard and Austin Findlen all got in the act by connecting on 3-pointers in the first quarter, while Marker ended the second period with another, drawing the Vikings to within three at 26-23.