All season Troy Howard of Belfast defeated all opponents using consistent overall offense and sturdy defense and, when some games got tight down the stretch, the young Lions turned to Stanley Sturgis to keep the ship sailing straight ahead.

That happened often, especially in the playoffs, as Sturgis' solid all-around play, and ability to knock down foul shots under pressure, helped the Lions finish the season as unbeaten Busline League large school division boys eighth-grade basketball champions.

No.1 Troy Howard (16-0) capped another sensational season with a 69-63 win over No. 2 Boothbay (13-4) on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 25 at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

Click for photos from this game.

Click for photos from other middle school basketball games this season.

The victory paved the way to the third straight Busline League crown for Sturgis and many of his teammates, who won the championship as sixth-graders as members of the THMS seventh-grade team three years ago and again at that level as seventh-graders. And now this year as eighth-graders.

Troy Howard, coached by Howard Fogg, include Tyler Barlett, Dakoda Doolan, Aaron Fuller, Sam Goguen, Shawn Kivlin, Skylar Perkins, Jesse Perry, Trey Reed, Artem Richter, Ricky Smith, Stanley Sturgis and Christopher Thayer.

Boothbay, coached by Dan Bryer, includes Kyle Ames, Eli Gudroe, Cameron Crocker, Jay Hasch, Graham Bryer, Hunter Arsenault, Keegan Giles, Hayden Brewer, Nick Simpson, Cameron Alley, John Lucas, Riley Johnson and Sam Burnham.

In Saturday's high-scoring season finale, the game was tied 18-18 after one quarter before Troy Howard led 35-29 and 55-47 at the next two quarter breaks.

The game boiled down to a sensational duel between Sturgis and Ames. Sturgis was sensational as he poured in 36 points and made 12-of-14 free throws (86 percent) and two 3-pointers. Ames finished with 31 points and four treys.

Also for the Lions, Bartlett and Goguen scored eight points; Doolan, six; and Fuller and Perkins, four. THMS made 18-of-27 foul shots (67 percent) and three treys, including one by Doolan.

For Boothbay, which also had two girls teams in Saturday's championship games (the Wildcats won both of those contests), Gudroe added 15 points; Arsenault, five; Giles, four; Alley, three; and Crocker and Hasch, two. The Wildcats made 11-of-20 free throws (55 percent).

Sturgis netted 10 points in the first quarter, nine in the second, six in the third and 11 in the fourth. Ames tallied eight points in the first quarter, seven in the second, 11 in the third and four in the fourth.

Troy Howard led 18-9 in the first quarter before Boothbay went on a 9-0 run to knot the contest at the break. That was the norm for the game, with the teams making runs to stay ahead or catch up.

With 3:03 remaining in the third quarter and the Lions ahead 45-43, Doolan hit two free throws and Sturgis made two technical foul shots to push Troy Howard back ahead 49-43.

Due to the technical foul, the Lions also retained possession of the ball and Goguen hit a baseline jumper to push the Troy Howard lead to eight points. Perkins then iced two free throws to push the Lion cushion to 10 points.

Boothbay cut its deficit to five points when Arsenault scored on a layup with less than two minutes left in the game to make it 65-60. But the always-clutch Sturgis cooly netted four more free throws, the second pair with 1:02 left, to give the Lions a 69-60 cushion and the eventual win.

Earlier in the playoffs, the Wildcats defeated No. 7 Searsport and No. 3 Bristol to advance, while the Lions bested No. 8 Oceanside West Blue and No. 4 Camden-Rockport to move forward.