It's official: Mustang boys hoop team spoils Lions' playoff questYoung Mount View squad wins four of final five games; BAHS ousted from playoffs
Thorndike — The Belfast boys basketball squad had a regional postseason berth in its grasp Thursday night, Feb. 7, but the young host Mount View Mustangs had other plans, namely to play spoiler and finish their season on a positive note.
The Mustangs did that — and won four of their last five games in the process — with a 52-47 victory over the Waldo County-rival Lions in a regular-season finale.
Video from this game appears below.
Mount View simply played a little bit better over Thursday's 32-minute game and earned the win.
When everything shook down in the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Belfast (7-11, 50.7716 points) finished 14th and Mount View (5-13, 36.7284 points) 18th in the 19-team region. The top 13 teams qualify for the playoffs.
Thus, Mount View and Belfast did not qualify for the playoffs.
To hold the No. 13 seed, which it held after the Mount View game, Belfast had to hope Orono defeated Dexter in an Eastern Class C matchup Feb. 9. If the Red Riots beat the Tigers (Dexter ultimately won 62-46), or if John Bapst of Bangor defeated Hermon (the Hawks ultimately won 44-30), the Ponies would gallop into the playoffs as the region's No. 13 seed — and Belfast would be out.
The first part happened, thus, the Lions were caged. And it all really came down to Thursday's final loss by Belfast to the rival Mustangs.
"Obviously it was a big game," said veteran Belfast coach Scott Benize of Thursday's regular-season finale with Mount View. "I told the kids that, 'You've got your own destiny in your hands. There it is.' And Mount View played very well. The last half of the year, those younger kids are playing with some confidence and they're playing tough. They just played much more physical and much harder than we did."
Thursday's game was competitive and came down to the wire, as the Mustangs hit a few key foul shots down the stretch to cement the victory.
Mount View led 17-15 after one quarter before Belfast surged to a 26-23 edge at halftime. However, the hosts came out fired up to start the third stanza and took control, leading 38-35 after three stanzas.
Mount View also outscored Belfast 14-12 over the final eight minutes, including making 10 free throws in the fourth stanza.
For Mount View, Nathan Wren netted 16 points; Jack Simpson, 14; Steven Davis, 10; Brody Gibbs, seven; Kenneth McGray, three; and Gavin Simpson, two. The Mustangs netted 18-of-41 free throws (44 percent) and four treys, three from Wren.
For Belfast, Ryan Rice tallied 17 points; Carl Dodge, 11; Kaleb Benjamin, nine; Yanni Rakis, four; and Levi Lapham, Greg Clark and Zach Collier, all two. The Lions made 11-of-22 free throws (50 percent) and three 3-pointers, two from Rice.
Earlier this season, host Belfast beat Mount View 60-46.
"I felt in the Waterville game (a 70-55 loss Jan. 8), the boys kind of figured out that they really had to work harder," said veteran Mustang coach Steve Caron. "Even though we lost that game, lost to Winslow, lost to Medomak [Valley], all three of those games were really good games and we were right in it until late in the game. And those are great teams."
Caron, whose team includes three juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen (and no seniors), said his squad "had a tendency [earlier in the season] to play maybe one good quarter, two, sometimes three, but never four," he said.
In recent games, however, that changed.
"They work hard, they're undersized and I think our defense again was the thing that really gave [Belfast] problems," Caron said. "We gave them no good looks in the fourth quarter and we ground it out."
Coach Benzie agreed: "[Mount View] did a good job keeping us off the offensive boards and they made us take some tough shots. They just played tougher halfcourt defense than we did."
The Mustang coach added, "Knocking off a Waldo County rival should be enough [motivation]," he said. "We kind of thought if we got the win that Belfast would probably not go to [the playoffs], but it wasn't as much about knocking someone else out, it was more about us and where we're at."
"We're just excited to get a win and it happens to be against our rival and it happens to be the last game and Belfast needed it, but it's more about my kids and what my kids are doing [and] not about Belfast and what they didn't get to do," Caron said. "I know a lot of those kids [on the Belfast team] and there are a lot of good kids on that team."
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