With Busline League middle school basketball's richest prize on the line Saturday morning, Jan. 19 at Medomak Middle School, No. 1 Troy Howard Middle School of Belfast and No. 3 Boothbay Elementary School hit the court with title aspirations, both eyeing the coveted large school division seventh-grade boys championship plaque.

And for the second straight year, it was the Lions, led by a core group of multi-talented returning players, who secured the hardware.

The Lions used their patented swarming fullcourt defense to create many turnovers and fastbreak baskets, overwhelming the Wildcats to put the game out of reach early en route to a 64-30 victory, allowing THMS to snatch its second straight league championship.

Click for photos from this game.

The Lions finished the season a perfect 17-0, while the Wildcats finished the campaign 12-5. THMS also finished as unbeaten champs last year.

Last season, Troy Howard, then the No. 2 seed, knocked off No. 1 Medomak 38-35 for the league crown in a championship game played in Belfast.

Team members for Troy Howard include Ricky Smith, Stan Sturgis, Tyler Bartlett, Nathaniel Johnson, Dakoda Doolan, Grady Doolan, Skylar Perkins, Sam Goguen, Aaron Fuller, Corey Deschamps, Nick Salvatore, Luke Lightner, Jesse Perry and Trey Reed.

Smith, Sturgis, Bartlett, Perkins, Dakoda Doolan, Salvatore and Goguen, all sixth-graders last year, were part of the championship team for the second straight season, this campaign as seventh-graders.

Team members for Boothbay include Kyle Ames, Cam Crocker, Jay Hasch, Hunter Arselault, Sam Brewer, Graham Bryer, Simpson, Alley and Lucas. Full names for all of Boothbay's players were unavailable.

Leading the Lions, who, like bees, swarm opponents offensively and defensively, was Sturgis with a 15-point effort, while Perkins added 12; Dakoda Doolan and Goguen, both eight; Fuller, seven; Bartlett, five; Salvatore, three; and Smith, Perry and Reed, all two.

For Bootbay, Arsenault netted 10 points, while Hasch added eight; Crocker, four; and Ames, Brewer and Simpson, all two.

The Lions were 10-of-18 (55 percent) from the foul line, while the Wildcats were 2-of-7 (22 percent).

Troy Howard took a 14-8 lead after the first quarter before going on a 17-8 second-quarter run to take a 31-16 advantage into the locker room. The Lions then grabbed a 42-22 cushion after three quarters before running away with the game in the final stanza, outscoring the Wildcats 22-8.

The Lions' topnotch defense was on display throughout the game and overwhelmed the Wildcats early and often, with Boothbay players often having to resort to making long baseball passes to midcourt in a effort to break the tough Troy Howard fullcourt press. That strategy amounted to only minimal success.

That defense, and the topnotch play of Sturgis, the point guard, and Goguen, a 6-foot-1-inch center, led the Lions.

The game began to get away from Boothbay early in the third quarter when Perkins slashed to the hoop on a nifty lay-in and a jumper from Dakoda Doolan put Troy Howard ahead 37-20. The Lions only increased their lead from that point and surged to their second straight league title.

No. 1 Troy Howard defeated No. 8 Great Salt Bay of Damariscotta and No. 4 Camden-Rockport to advance to the league championship, while No. 3 Boothbay upended No. 6 Medomak of Waldoboro and No. 2 Oceanside Blue of Thomaston/Rockland to earn its championship berth.

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.