AUGUSTA — This wasn’t the Boothbay boys’ basketball team that had beaten Hall-Dale twice during the season, and the Bulldogs were well aware of the difference.
What Hall-Dale wasn’t certain about was how the Seahawks would adjust to having six players, including three starters, suspended after being at a party where alcohol was consumed.
“They’re just so different now,” Hall-Dale Coach Chris Ranslow said. “So it was like, what is (Boothbay Coach I.J. Pinkham) going to do? Is he going to stall it? Is he going to press us full court? Is he going to come after us?”
Hall-Dale found all the answers, using a strong third quarter to pull away for a 67-54 victory Monday in a Western Class C quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Boothbay, the No. 2 seed, proved to be full of fight, led by its youngest player, Jacob Leonard. A freshman who spent the season on the junior varsity, Leonard wasn’t even in the team picture printed in the tournament program. But he finished with 16 points and single-handedly kept the Seahawks (16-3) in the game for a half.
Said Ranslow: “I’d seen him play JV. But I didn’t think he had the capacity to move to that upper level and do that.”
Hall-Dale senior Alex McPherson was caught off guard as well.
“He had a few moves that we definitely were not expecting,” McPherson said of Leonard.
McPherson proved to be full of surprises as well. The 5-foot-9 guard had his best game of the season, putting up a team-high 14 points and leading a second-half blitz. Hall-Dale (11-9) used its depth to wear down Boothbay.
“They were undermanned. It’s a disappointing story out in Boothbay. You hate to end the season like that,” Ranslow said.
“That was an emotional hurdle that we needed to get over. Sometimes, the most dangerous animal in the forest is the wounded bear. So we knew what was left was going to be really, really fired up to come after us.”
Center Brian Allen said Hall-Dale spoke at halftime about not committing so many fouls. The Seahawks shot 17 free throws in the first half, which helped them stay close.
“We needed to push the tempo because we knew they were a good team and we couldn’t let them hang around anymore. We needed to put them away, finally,” said Allen, who finished with 13 points.
Hall-Dale made 13 of 14 free throws after intermission to help its cause and earn a measure of revenge. Even if this version of the Seahawks was markedly different.
“It just feels good to beat a team that’s beaten us twice,” Allen said. “A win is a win.”
The Bulldogs will face Waynflete in Thursday’s semifinals.
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: