BANGOR — Thousands of crazed, screaming, frenzied basketball fans rose to their feet in unison Saturday night, the final seconds of regulation ticking away in a Class C boys basketball state championship game tied at 44 apiece. And nearly every single one of those crazed, screaming, frenzied fans — and most of the players on both opposing benches — believe there was only one option George Stevens Academy would turn to with the game on the line.
Turns out the Eagles flipped the script on everybody, most painfully for Winthrop High School.
Leading scorer Taylor Schildroth kicked out against a stack of Rambler defenders inside the paint, watching as teammate Jarrod Chase knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.5 seconds remaining, lifting George Stevens to a perfect season and its second consecutive state championship, 47-44, over Winthrop at the Cross Insurance Center.
George Stevens (22-0) made five field goals in the fourth quarter — all of them from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I called a couple of timeouts, and every time I told them we needed to just dig in and we could do this,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “They believed in each other so much, they made the plays. Jarrod said, ‘give me the ball.’”
With Schildroth in the mix, and lethal in his own right from deep range, Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur conceded he believed that’s where the ball was going on the fateful play.
“I think anybody in the stadium thought he was taking that,” MacArthur said. “Anytime he penetrates, he’s going to collapse the defense. He made the right play. He kicked it out and he just buried it.
“What he did in the last two minutes of that game, that’s why he’s the type of player he is. He’s a special player.”
Chase finished with 16 points for the Eagles. All along, both he and Carter confirmed, the play was designed for him.
“I knew that they thought Taylor Schildroth would probably take the ball, so we set it up for Jarrod to set a screen for him and then he would come off of it and he’d just give it back to Jarrod,” Carter said. “He had two guys on him, he did a reverse dribble back, and he’s a great shooter. He made it, and it was unbelievable.”
Chase knew that it was the right time to take the ball into his own hands. For someone known in practice as playing at a slower pace — “Brooklyn Pace,” they call it — the senior recognized the moment.
“I overpass sometimes, but this is the state championship. You just can’t afford that,” Chase said. “(Schildroth) dribbled into the middle, into some traffic, and kicked it out to me. I probably could have shot it the first time, but I just took one dribble and put it up.”
Winthrop frantically called for a timeout after the go-ahead bucket, but with only 1.2 seconds on the clock and a full 94-foot court to cover, it was desperation mode.
“You’re asking for a miracle there,” MacArthur said. “I don’t know what page of my playbook has that play in it. It is what it is.”
The Ramblers, struggling to find open looks throughout the first half, successfully found their inside game in the third quarter.
Jacob Hickey, who rolled his ankle late in the first quarter, was ineffective — at one point raising his hands to himself in the fourth quarter, following his ninth consecutive miss from the field, as if to ask no one in particular “what is going on here?” He finished with 11 points, but none of those came after halftime.
Cam Wood picked up the slack, scoring nine of his 11 points in the second half. So, too, did Bennett Brooks, who twice successfully drove the lane late in the game to build a 42-36 Winthrop lead with 2:14 remaining.
Schildroth, like Hickey, cooled for much of the night following a first quarter in which the two sharpshooters combined for 20 of the game’s first 27 points, but then came alive in crunch time. He buried two long 3-pointers from the left wing in a 29-second span, erasing Winthrop’s lead and tying the game at 42-42 with 1:25 remaining.
Wood’s putback with 1:05 to play put the Ramblers back on top, but two Percy Zentz free throws knotted it back up at 44-44 with 47.4 seconds.
Winthrop had the ball in the final half minute and was playing for the last shot but then called a timeout when it didn’t get the look it liked in setting up the play. But Schildroth intercepted the would-be inbounds pass to give the ball back to the Eagles, and they had 18.9 seconds to draw up Chase’s miracle.
Whatever it was that Carter said, it worked.
“That was unbelievable, and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid,” Carter said. “He’s a special kid.”
“I can’t ask for anything else from my kids,” MacArthur added. “We contested, we made things difficult (on the game’s final play), but I told those kids, ‘sometimes life isn’t fair.’”
Travis Barrett — 621-5621