The start was a nightmare for the Poland boys’ basketball team Saturday.
The finish was a dream.
The sixth-seeded Knights, after trailing top-ranked Greely 23-4 in the first quarter of the Western Class B boys’ basketball final, left the Rangers stunned, coming all the way back for a 63-59 victory at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Poland (13-8) didn’t get to the regional final without showing a lot of resiliency, and did it again. It climbed back into the game in the second quarter, built an 11-point lead in the fourth, then held off a last charge by the Rangers (19-2), who had not lost to a Class B team this year.
The Knights, who had never won a Class B regional championship, will take on Old Town – an unheralded success story in its own right – in the state final Friday night at Bangor.
After winning its last four regular-season games to clinch a tourney berth, Poland completed a sweep of the top three teams in the region. First the Knights beat No. 3 Spruce Mountain in the quarterfinals, then knocked off No. 2 Morse in the semifinals.
Against Greely, the Knights rode a 26-point performance by Caleb Martin.
“We knew we could do it,” said Martin, a 5-foot-10 senior guard. “We just had to develop mental toughness. That’s been our Achilles’ heel all season.
“We flipped a switch in our last four games of the regular season and it carried over to here. We’ve got the regional championship plaque and we’re bringing it back to Poland for the first time in school history, and it feels great.”
Half of Martin’s points came in the third quarter when Poland took its first lead.
“We went to our four-corner offense, looking to penetrate,” said Martin. “Greely was struggling to stop us from penetrating. Once I got layups and foul shots, I really got it going. I hit two big 3-pointers. I kind of got into a shooting zone. I hadn’t been in one (during) the tournament until now. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
Martin won the Pierre Harnois Award as tourney MVP.
“When we need him, he steps up,” said Poland Coach Tyler Tracy. “That’s the thing about this team. Anyone can play big at any time.”
Tracy said his team was tentative and a bit scared at the start. Greely scored the first nine points and before long, Poland was in a deeper hole.
“Once we settled down, we knew we could play with these guys,” said Tracy. “We didn’t execute defensively for the first two or three minutes. We were getting beat on basic stuff.”
Poland went on an 11-0 run late in the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Bailey Train of Greely made it 32-25 at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Martin, who scored 13 points, and by the end of the quarter the score was 42-42.
There were three more ties, the last with 6:17 left. Poland hit 8 of 10 shots in the fourth.
“Poland did great things and hit big shots,” said Greely Coach Travis Seaver. “And we stopped doing what we were doing. We got into foul trouble, which didn’t help things. Poland played great from the second quarter on.”
Trailing 61-50, the Rangers made last one run. Train had three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last one from an impossible angle. Freshman Matt McDevitt hit a 3-pointer from the side with 30 seconds left to cut it to 61-59, but Poland’s Josh Gary scored a layup seconds later while getting fouled. He missed the foul shot, but it didn’t matter.
Train hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points. Mike McDevitt scored 13 before fouling out.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: