READFIELD — Top-seeded Maranacook set aside a helter-skelter first half and rolled over No. 7 Traip Academy with two goals after the break, sealing a 3-0 win in the Class C South final.

Captains Silas Mohlar and Jackson McPhedran each scored, sending the Black Bears (16-1) to the state championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Deering High, where they will face the winner of Thursday’s Class C North final between George Stevens Academy and Fort Kent.

“We knew (Traip was) a second-half team so we had to come out strong,” Mohlar said. “It feels good, for sure. We finished a lot better tonight.”

Both teams played a nervy game in the opening 40 minutes, most of which was played within 10 yards of the center of the park. The Rangers (11-5-1) tried to settle into the possession game that carried them into the final, while Maranacook was intent on banging the ball around with little coming from it.

It all changed in the second half, when a higher Maranacook back line borne out of tighter man-marking created two distinct advantages. The Rangers could no longer pick out the passes that built their attacking game, while greater numbers forward had Maranacook poised as a threat up top.

Maranacook’s Jackson McPhedran, center, is congratulated by teammates after his goal in the 67th minute closed the scoring in the victory against Traip Academy. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Freshman striker Wyatt Lambert potted the rebound of a Mohlar shot in the 61st minute to give Maranacook a 2-0 lead, and center back McPhedran pushed forward on a deep throw-in to rip home Garrett Whitten’s feed six minutes later.

“We played a really terrible first half and we all knew it,” McPhedran said. “We had to push up to mark and execute, and that really helped. It made them almost step back toward their own goal, which created tons of pressure that they couldn’t handle in the second half.”

“I wanted more pressure on the ball, as far as defensively coming up and marking,” Maranacook Coach Don Beckwith said. “I thought it was proven in the second half. We had more control of the ball – not necessarily passing-wise – but we were getting the ball forward so it gave us more opportunities. That’s what I wanted.”

The final 40 minutes were Maranacook’s most complete half of soccer in three postseason games.

“It was because they’re a really good team. That’s a lot better team than a seventh (seed),” Beckwith said. “We had some kids that stepped up and made some plays. It was good to see.”

“We thought we could settle in in the second half, and they just ramped their energy up a little bit,” Traip Coach Mike MacLeay added. “The key was their energy. I know (Beckwith) is hard on them and pushes them to go through walls, and it obviously pays off.”

Maranacook opened the scoring through Mohlar in the 12th minute, when his header off a corner kick went to McPhedran along the goal line. McPhedran collected the ball in space and slid a soft ball to Mohlar, and Mohlar finished from 12 yards out with a low drive to the far corner.

Though the rest of the half was largely a stalemate, the Black Bears nearly put it away before halftime. In the 39th minute, junior midfielder Aric Belanger was left unchecked at the top of the 18-yard box, but his curler to the far bar was turned out by a diving save from Traip goalkeeper Jayce Nielsen (four saves). Less than a minute later, Lambert had a strike with Nielsen out of position, only to have his blistering bid cleared off the line by Traip back Jacob Gagner.

The near misses set the stage for the second half. In contrast to Saturday’s regional semifinal against Waynflete, when they let the Flyers hang around long enough to force overtime, the Black Bears were in position to finish this one off.