Bonny Eagle High’s unsung players stepped up when needed the most and the Scots are going to a state title game for just the third time in school history.

Second-seeded Bonny Eagle beat No. 1 Thornton Academy 48-44 in Friday’s AA South final thanks to center Will Hendrix’s eight second-half points, Jacob Humphrey’s six fourth-quarter free throws and a game-sealing steal, Jackson Bean’s clutch 3-pointer to end the third quarter and a late basket by Nate Ferris. And, Zach Maturo scored 20 points.

“Some people may say our team revolves around Zach, which it does to a certain extent, but Jack Bean’s 3 was huge, Jake Humphrey’s free throws were huge, Nate Ferris’ rebounds were huge,” said first-year Bonny Eagle coach John Trull. “We have a full team here and when we’re going it’s pretty impressive. I still don’t think we’ve played our best game in this tournament.”

The Scots (18-3) will face AA North champion Bangor (19-2) in the state final at 9:05 p.m. March 2 at Cross Insurance Arena. Bangor is making its first final-game appearance since winning the 2011 Class A title.

Bonny Eagle won the 1970 Class B state title (then called Class L). Its only other trip to the state final was a 1995 Class A loss to Bangor.

“We’ll be wearing green uniforms, we’ll be the underdogs just like we’ve been all year so we’re used to that,” Trull said.

Thornton (16-5) was trying to return to the state final for the first time since winning its only title in 2009, when Trull was a senior starter for Thornton.

Thornton led 14-11 with two-plus minutes to play in a low-scoring first half but then hit a lull from the field. The Trojans shot 5 of 24 in the middle quarters and trailed 17-14 at the half and 29-23 after Bean’s 3-pointer closed the third quarter. Bonny Eagle maintained at least a four-point lead the rest of the way. Four free-throw misses by Thornton helped keep the margin intact.

“We missed some shots. They played some tough defense. We missed some easy hoops,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies. “We didn’t make our free throws either.”

Thornton’s Payton Jones scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter with six free throws and two late 3-pointers.

Maturo, who had 26 points in the Scots’ semifinal win, was named the George Vinall Award winner as the AA South region’s top player.

Humphrey, shut out in the first half, finished with 10 points. Hendrix, a senior, scored 11 before fouling out, giving Bonny Eagle a needed inside scoring option.

“We were slow on offense, we weren’t making shots and we weren’t rebounding,” Hendrix said. “I had to go to work. This season they haven’t relied on me for scoring as they have in years past. I just had to do it to win the game.”

Defense definitely outshined the offense, especially the on-the-ball pressure that both teams’ guards applied, making it difficult for the teams to get into an offensive flow.

“We go out there and we give 100 percent, all of us are aggressive,” Maturo said. “It was a little slow for both of us. We just kept trying to get the right guy going. We got Will going in the post. We knew, if we just kept feeding him, they couldn’t guard him.”

The one person able to create in the first half was Maturo, who dribbled his way around screens and the sticky presence of Thornton’s Kobe Gaudette to find enough creases for his variety of one-handed floaters, making 6 of 10 shots.

But in the second half, Maturo was 1 of 9 from the floor. That’s when his teammates stepped up.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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