Instant classic: Mariners outlast Lions in championship thrillerWirkala, Anderson key Oceanside to seventh-grade title over THMS
Camden — The most memorable championship games are the ones that leave fans, coaches and even players on the edge of their seats and, ultimately, are not decided until the final seconds.
An example of that came Saturday afternoon, Jan. 25 at Camden-Rockport Middle School in the form of the Busline League large school division boys seventh-grade basketball finale between No. 1 Troy Howard of Belfast and No. 2 Oceanside West White of Thomaston.
The instant classic of a game was not settled until the end when the Mariners (11-4) nipped the Lions (13-2) down the stretch.
Thus, Oceanside walked off the gymnasium floor with a hard-fought and well-earned 52-50 victory.
The Lions and Mariners played the third of back-to-back-to-back-to-back “Championship Saturday” games at CRMS. The league's small school division title games were played at Lincolnville Central School.
Oceanside, coached by Michael Dennett, includes Amos Anderson, Jacob Curtis, Eli Miller, Zach Cody, Cooper Wirkala, Aubrey Johnson, Jamie Martin, Lexington Marquis, Zach Hersey, Kade Long, Michael McGeady, Isaiah Milley and Aiden Andrews.
Troy Howard, coached by Larry Doolan and Kurt Payson, includes Dylan Abbott, Andrew Akles, Corey Deshamps, Grady Doolan, Luke Hamlin, Nathaniel Johnson, Max Lewis, Luke Lightner, Wilder Magruder, Nichols Carter, Dakota Payson, Evan Porter, Drew Robson and Caleb Young.
Saturday's championship game was knotted 12-12 after one quarter and Oceanside moved out to a 21-17 advantage at halftime and a 38-33 edge after three stanzas.
Keying the champs from Oceanside were Wirkala with 18 points and Anderson 16. The two were forces the entire game, with Wirkala tallying seven points in the first half and 11 in the second. He also made 8-of-10 free throws (80 percent), including 5-of-6 (83 percent) in he decisive fourth stanza. Anderson netted eight points in each half in a consistent effort.
Also for the Mariners, McGeady scored eight points; Curtis, six; and Cody and Milley, two. Oceanside made 14-of-20 free throws (70 percent). McGeady hit two 3-pointers.
For THMS, Johnson tallied 19 points; Lewis, 13; Akles, nine; Lightner and Magruder, four; and Doolan, one. The Lions were 5-of-11 (45 percent) from the foul line and Johnson connected on the team's lone trey. Johnson scored seven points in the first half and 12 in the second, while Lewis chipped in 10 over the final 16 minutes.
The game was close throughout, but Oceanside pulled ahead by 10 points in the fourth quarter. At that point, the contest appeared out of reach for the Lions as a trey by McGeady put the Mariners ahead by eight points and Curtis hit two free throws to make it 43-33.
However, the Lions roared back with several hoops. In fact, Doolan hit a free throw and Akles scored on an offensive putback to pull Troy Howard within 44-40. Then Johnson connected on a lane runner to make it 44-42.
The game was back-and-forth over the final 1:30 until Johnson connected on a lane runner with 40.3 remaining to put THMS ahead 50-49.
However, Wirkala iced two free throws to give the Mariners a 51-50 advantage and Milley made 1-of-2 foul shots with 14.3 seconds left to make it 52-50.
The game ended as a Lion 3-point shot attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
Anderson and Wirkala were paramount for the Mariners as the Mariner duo often used their height and shooting touch to generate points in the paint and from midrange, while Johnson was instrumental in the Lion comeback, hitting many runners and floaters in the lane in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in the playoffs, the Mariners defeated No. 7 Great Salt Bay of Damariscotta and No. 3 Medomak of Waldoboro to advance, while the Lions downed No. 8 Wiscasset and No. 5 Oceanside West Blue of Thomaston to move forward.