Close games have been the norm for Morse High’s boys’ basketball team this year, with six games decided by three points or less – five won by the Shipbuilders.

So when the second-seeded Shipbuilders found themselves down by a point to sixth-seeded Poland with 4.3 seconds left and the ball, they weren’t worried.

“(I was) still feeling confident,’’ said Morse Coach Sam Hayes. “We ran a play we’ve been working on, and I’m going to second-guess myself and say we should have run the other play.’’

That’s because this time, unlike their four buzzer-beater wins, the Shipbuilders couldn’t finish. Senior guard Tyler Michaud stepped in front of the inbounds and dribbled out the clock, allowing the Knights to escape with a 45-44 victory in a Western Class B semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Poland, which had to win its last four regular-season games just to get into the tournament, held a 45-32 lead with 4:42 remaining after Caleb Martin knifed his way to the basket. The Knights didn’t score again, but they were able to make one final defensive stand to move on.

Poland (12-8) will play top-seeded Greely in the regional championship game at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center. Morse, which missed 10 foul shots, finished 15-5.

“Our last three or four games, in the fourth quarter we’ve had a comfortable lead and we always make it interesting,’’ said Poland Coach Tyler Tracy. “We kind of shoot ourselves in the foot, but we find a way to win. That’s what we did today.’’

And, said Tracy, Michaud epitomizes the team. “He’s gritty, he’s tough, he doesn’t back down, and he doesn’t get rattled.”

 

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The teams were tied at 21 at the half, then Poland took control. With Martin scoring seven points in the third quarter, Poland led 36-31 going into the fourth. A basket by Derek Michaud, a dead-eye 3-pointer by Tyler Michaud from the left corner, a layup by Josh Gary and Martin’s drive made it 45-32 with 4:42 left.

Then the Knights stopped attacking on offense and the Shipbuilders fought back. With Ethan Winglass getting to the basket – he scored eight of his 12 points in the final 4:33 – Morse cut the deficit. Jacob Freeman made a couple strong defensive plays, and when Keegan McDonough hit two foul shots with 50.7 seconds left, the Shipbuilders trailed by just one, 45-44.

The Knights worked the clock down, then Tyler Michaud missed a layup, setting up the final play.

“I knew they were going to try to go to McDonough,’’ he said. “First (Freeman) came off the screen, I thought McDonough would be behind him, so I jumped in front and got the steal.’’

Hayes said the last play wasn’t the only reason his team lost. Foul shooting is at the top of the list.

“We’ve struggled with that a little bit all year,’’ he said. “When we shoot foul shots well, we’re tough to beat. Tonight, foul shots came into play at the end.’’

Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH