Medomak Valley: The turnaround struck early, and the Panthers haven’t wavered

The turning point came during halftime of the season’s fifth game. Medomak Valley was coming off a loss at Morse and staring at a 14-point deficit against rival Lincoln Academy.

Coach Nick DePatsy pulled aside his captains – seniors Micah Williamson and Colton Spear, and junior Nicholas DePatsy – and challenged them.

“These kids have put a lot of time in and a lot of work so there really was no excuse for the way they were playing,” the coach said. “There was just a lack of intensity and a lack of emotion.”

A different team emerged in the third quarter and the Panthers rallied for a 53-44 victory. They went on to win 16 of their next 17 games and find themselves on the cusp of the school’s first Class B boys’ basketball state championship in 35 years.

“Coach basically told us it’s up to us to get everyone going,” Spear said. “Down in a rivalry game we showed maturity and work ethic, and came back and won. That just showed we can battle through anything.”

Eastern Maine champ and top seed Medomak Valley (19-2) of Waldoboro faces Western Maine second seed Cape Elizabeth (18-3) at 9 p.m. Friday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The title game is the second in three years for Medomak Valley, whose only state crowns came in 1977 and 1980. Williamson is the only starter still with the Panthers from their 62-39 loss to Falmouth in the 2013 state final, although Nicholas DePatsy was one of the first players off the bench that season.

Last year Medomak lost to Ellsworth on a basket in the final seconds of their preliminary-round game.

“Coming into the year, honestly, I didn’t think we were going to be where we are today,” said Nicholas DePatsy, who leads the team with 21.6 points per game. “But we’ve practiced hard all year and we’ve gotten better. We had a tough regular-season schedule, which I think has helped in the tournament.”

Other than Morse – a loss they avenged in Waldoboro in late January – the only team to beat the Panthers was Winslow, which won by 17 in early January. A month later in Augusta, they met again in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship (an exhibition that doesn’t figure in their records), and Medomak Valley won, 66-63.

Following tournament victories over No. 8 Maine Central Institute and No. 12 Mount Desert Island, the Panthers faced Winslow in the regional final and rallied from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to win, 51-48.

“I don’t think we’ve surprised ourselves,” said Williamson, who led Medomak with 18 points in the final. “We knew we could do it. But I think there were a lot of people out there who were counting us out. We buckled down and proved some people wrong, which feels pretty good.”

Center Cameron Allaire, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, blocked a 3-point attempt by Winslow’s Justin Martin in the final seconds. Allaire is the team’s leading rebounder (8.6 per game) with DePatsy (8.4) not far behind.

“He’s very long and he’s thin,” Nick DePatsy said of Allaire. “You look at him and think he’s a string bean but he’s stronger than you think. He can dunk it with ease.”

Medomak’s record in games decided by fewer than 10 points is 7-0. This is not a club that panics. When a game is close and late, it also helps to have a coach’s son on the floor.

Late in the regional semifinal against MDI, for example, the Panthers were exhausted and in need of a timeout. But they only had one remaining, and didn’t want to waste it. That’s when Nicholas DePatsy pointed out something to referees he noticed two minutes earlier: blood droplets on the floorboards.

Officials stopped the game to clean it up.

“His basketball IQ is off the charts,” Williamson said. “He ended up getting us a timeout when we were out of breath.”

Naturally, DePatsy draws a lot of attention from opposing teams. Which is fine with Medomak Valley.

“He’s just as good a passer as he is a shooter,” Williamson said. “So he’ll find you if you’re open. And if he’s double-teamed, somebody will be open.”