While the Troy Howard Middle School boys seventh-grade basketball team technically was the visitor heading into Wednesday night’s Busline League middle school large school championship game against Medomak Middle School, in the end, the Lions truly proved that there is no place like home.

Facing the daunting task of attempting to hand the unbeaten Riverhawks their first loss, the Lions were involved in a game that was a back-and-forth battle throughout the second half and featured several lead changes between the squads.

In the end, it was a hoop by Troy Howard’s Nolan Woods with 1:04 remaining that helped the Lions pull out a 60-57 win over the Riverhawks to claim the Busline League seventh-grade crown at Troy Howard Middle School.

The game originally was scheduled to be part of four championship contests Jan. 14 at Troy Howard. However, the Lions’ semifinal playoff game with Wiscasset was rescheduled several times and could not be played until Jan. 14. The MMS and Troy Howard championship game was to be played Jan. 17, but, due to inclement weather, was pushed to Jan. 18.

The Lions and Warriors played their semifinal playoff contest Jan. 14 at the conclusion of the three other championship contests, with the Lions earning a 38-35 victory. That earned them a berth in the final against MMS — at home.

On Wednesday, No. 2 Troy Howard (10-2) led 15-9 after the first quarter and 29-24 at halftime, while No. 1 Medomak (11-1) rebounded to take a 44-43 advantage after three quarters.

Zane Bielenberg poured in 24 points to lead the newly-crowned league champs, while Stan Sturgis added 16; Sam Goguen, 14; Woods, four; and Devin Jackson, two.

For the league runners-up, Jon Allard netted 18 points, while Cam Allaire added 10; Taylor McLain, seven; Laken Harrington, Kyle Donlin and Cale Gee, all five; Cam Martin, four; and Nick Grover, three.

The Lions were 15-of-26 (58 percent) from the foul line stripe, while the Riverhawks were 10-of-24 (42 percent).

“I’m just proud of the kids,” said Troy Howard coach Stan Sturgis. “They deserve it. I know how hard they’ve worked all year with me as a coach. I push them hard and I know no other team worked as hard as they did.”

Earlier in the regular season, Medomak downed Troy Howard 42-17 in Belfast, which made the Lions’ win in the championship game Wednesday that much more improbable.

Improbable, but as it turned out, not impossible.

“We started off slow and I think were a bit out of sorts given their early success,” said MMS coach Pat Delahanty. “We played them just a month ago and their offense was non-existent, now we are two or three minutes into the second quarter and they are up by double-digits. That being said, I was pleased with how we fought back and eventually pulled ahead. Had we converted in the waning minutes, this could have ended differently.”

As it turned out, the contest between the Lions and Riverhawks certainly deserved its own stage, proving to be the most exciting of all four large school title games, according to Troy Howard athletic director Wendy Reed, host and director of all the championship encounters.

The Lions, wearing their road blue uniforms, certainly took advantage of the venue of the title game as the Troy Howard crowd was electric — particularly late in the second half when both teams stepped up their intensity in hopes of claiming the title.

In the fourth quarter, Bielenberg gave the Lions a 45-44 lead with a layup, but the Riverhawks responded with a layup from Harrington and another hoop from Allard to put MMS ahead 48-45.

Gee later put up a runner in the lane to push Medomak’s lead to 52-46, but Bielenberg hit a 3-pointer to cut the Troy Howard deficit to three points.

The Riverhawks continued to try and pull away and again extended their edge to six points after Grover made a steal in the backcourt, which resulted in a layup, but Bielenberg scored five straight points — including drilling another trey — to again cut the Troy Howard deficit to one point.

The two teams battled back and forth over the waning minutes with the Riverhawks refusing to give up the lead, until Woods put up an offensive rebound with 1:04 left to give Troy Howard a 58-57 advantage.

Bielenberg, who scored 12 points in the final quarter, hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to cement the win for the Lions.

While taking no credit from the Lion players’ accomplishments Wednesday, both coaches admitted that playing the game in one team’s home gymnasium certainly was a confidence boost for that team.

“I truly believe their home-court advantage played a part in their success,” said Delahanty. “But give credit where credit is due. [Troy Howard] played an incredible game, shot lights out, hit the clutch shots, and deserved the win.”

“It was huge,” said coach Sturgis of playing the game at home. “Last year, I coached the girls and we played in the championship down in Boothbay and we fell short by four or six points, but having the home crowd, it was awesome. And I think the kids really enjoyed it.”

The officials for Wednesday’s championship game were father and son, Steve and Clint Beveridge.

Team members for the league champions from Troy Howard Middle School include Ricky Smith, Stan Sturgis, Tyler Bartlett, Zane Bielenberg, Derrick Tyler, Devin Jackson, Skylar Perkins, Dakota Doolan, Sam Goguen, Tristan Roberts, Zach Dyer, Nolan Woods, Gerard Coward, Tyler McLeod and Ian Snowdeal. The team is coached by Stan Sturgis.

Team members for the league runners-up from Medomak Middle School include Isaac Eutsler, Laken Harrington, Adam Eutsler, Zach Brown, Kyle Donlin, Dan Jones, Jonathan Allard, Zidane McMurrin, Cale Gee, Patrick White, Taylor McLain, Nick Grover, Cam Martin, Cam Allaire and Channing Soper. The team is coached by Pat Delahanty.

Troy Howard 38, Wiscasset 35 … At Belfast Jan. 14, the No. 2 Lions defeated the No. 3 Warriors to advance to the finals. Wiscasset led 7-6 after the first quarter, 13-10 at halftime and 25-21 after three quarters. The Lions then went on a 17-10 run in the final stanza to emerge victorious.

Bielenberg tossed in 22 points — 20 of which came in the second half, along with four 3-pointers — to lead the Lions, while Woods added eight and Goguen and McLeod both four.

For Wiscasset, Nate Woodman and Grant Hefler each scored eight points, while Cody Roberts added seven; Brandon Gould, four; and Russell Main, Joe Pinkham, Kevin Lynch and Ethan James, all two.

The Lions were 4-of-12 (33 percent) from the foul line and Wiscasset 1-of-3 (33 percent).

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.