AUGUSTA — Coming out of a timeout with 12 seconds left in the Western Class D boys’ basketball championship game and his team trailing by two points, Valley High Coach Luke Hartwell looked at Cody Laweryson. Laweryson, a sophomore, didn’t flinch.
“I told Cody in the timeout, ‘You’re going for the win. Can you handle that?’” said Hartwell. “He said ‘Yes.’”
Laweryson made his third 3-pointer of the game with eight seconds remaining, capping a comeback that gave the fourth-seeded Cavaliers a 50-49 win over No. 2 Hyde at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Coach just told us, if we couldn’t get an easy 2, get a 3, and I hit it,” Laweryson said. “I just had confidence at that point.”
Valley (17-4) will play in the state championship game for the first time since 2006. The Cavaliers’ opponent will be Hodgdon, which beat Southern Aroostook for the Eastern Maine title.
Hyde, which beat Valley twice in the regular season by 23 and 11 points, ends the season at 18-3.
“Never give up. It’s 32 minutes of basketball. Our boys kept with it,” Hartwell said.
“It just feels good to be one of those (Valley) teams that goes to the state game,” said Jordan Gillespie, who won the John Messina Award as the tournament’s most valuable player.
Laweryson’s late 3-pointer gave Valley its only lead of the game and capped a wild final two minutes.
When Hyde’s Warsame Mohamed made a free throw with 1:44 to play, the Phoenix had a 45-39 lead. Gillespie sank a 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining, Mohamed twice missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the line, and Luke Malloy’s long 3-pointer tied the game with 59 seconds left.
“We missed some crucial free throws. We sink the free throws, the game’s out of reach,” Hyde Coach Peter Rowe said.
Still, the Phoenix regained the lead on a Talin Rowe layup seconds after Malloy’s tying shot. After the Cavaliers missed three free throws, Kiefer Cundy made a pair of foul shots with 30.1 seconds left to push Hyde’s lead to 49-45.
A Teagan Staples layup on a putback made it 49-47 with 12 seconds left, and the Phoenix turned the ball over attempting a court-length pass.
“I’m sure our players wish they had that last pass back, because we’re up two with the ball. You can’t throw the length of the court. That’s a game changer,” Rowe said. “When you get to possession basketball, you’ve got to treat every possession as though it’s your last. We didn’t execute.”
Following Laweryson’s final 3-pointer, Hyde turned the ball over again with 2.7 seconds remaining, and Valley was able to run out the clock and celebrate.
“They have some really talented players. It was just big that we didn’t give up,” Laweryson said.
Hyde went on an 8-0 run to take its largest lead, 36-25, with 1:40 left in the third. With the 6-foot-4 Mohamed and 6-6 Akim Sanni, Hyde enjoyed a size advantage. Hartwell said playing the Phoenix twice in the regular season helped, though, because it allowed the Cavaliers to get used to Hyde’s length.
With that in mind, the Cavaliers countered Hyde’s size with speed. For most of the game, Hartwell had the 5-5 Gillespie defend Mohamed on the perimeter while getting help when Mohamed went inside.
“Mohamed is very quick with the basketball. He keeps it low. The only guy on my team who can really defend that low dribble is Jordan,” Hartwell said. “Even though he gave up about 10 inches of height, I figured (Mohamed) doesn’t like to post up a lot, so we’ll look to use our ball pressure and get him tired. You could see in the fourth quarter, he was tired. He was missing shots, and that helped us at the very end.”
Mohamed had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Staples helped hold Sanni to 10 points and six rebounds.
“I just took the challenge and clamped down,” Gillespie said.
Hyde led 13-5 after one quarter. Valley got to within two points in the second quarter and trailed 22-17 at halftime.
Dylan Belanger led Valley with 13 points. Laweryson added 11, Staples had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Gillespie also scored 10 points – eight in the fourth quarter.
Travis Lazarczyk can be contacted at 861-9242 or at: