PORTLAND—Will Hendrix, Bonny Eagle’s inside powerhouse, grabbed a layup lead for his boys early in the third at the Cross Insurance Arena on Friday night, Feb. 22 – he grabbed it, and the Scots then guarded it so ferociously that top-seeded TA, their opponents, could never take it back, couldn’t even inch a single point out front again through the remainder of the game.

Hendrix finished with 11 and star point guard Zach Maturo finished with 20 as Bonny Eagle prevailed in the contest – which also happened to the be the AA South Final, far and away the biggest game anyone on the team had ever played in.

“It was just our team defense,” Bonny Eagle head coach John Trull said, asked what allowed his boys to get a win over an outfit who’d beaten them in the regular season. “Last time we played, I did a terrible job with switching up between zones. We tried to play too much, and we just need to man-up and play.”

“When we lost to South Portland, whatever amount of games ago – our last loss – I just told myself we’ve got to play man defense, man vs. man, and if they beat us, they beat us,” Trull said. “But we’re not going to lose because of me. I thought we did a great job tonight on man defense tonight.”

“It was an awesome game for us; it was crazy,” Hendrix said. “We put in the work; we put in four-hour practices. We wanted to win – I think we wanted to win more than any team in the State of Maine. Coach Trull and [assistant coach Kevin Cooper], all our coaches, are just such good coaches. It’s awesome to have a program, a team like this.”

“We just needed to play our game,” Maturo said. “We didn’t do anything different than the first game; we were just more disciplined. We came out aggressive, grittiness, more of a team.”

The Scots won the opening jump-ball, and Maturo quickly knocked down a two. Trojans Anthony Bracamonte and Robert Gawronski soon combined to push their boys out front 4-2, but Maturo responded in turn, grabbing his own offensive rebound and laying it up for 4-4.

The sides jostled like that through the rest of the first: Scot Cam Gardner stole, leading to a Hendrix free-throw and 5-4; TA’s Dylan Griffin completed a three-point play for 7-5; Maturo tied things up on a drive at 7-7; Trojan Kobe Gaudette earned the last two of the quarter for 9-7.

A travel call against Payton Jones – TA’s top scorer on the night, with 16 – kicked off the second on a high note for BE. Maturo then fed to Hendrix inside for two more and 9-9 to keep the Scots’ energy high. The Trojans pulled out front once more at 12-9 on a Griffin rebound/layup combo and a Griffin free, but Maturo refused to let the No. 1 squad run away with the scoreboard, hitting a two for 12-11.

Hendrix, a 6-foot-4 football player, is Bonny Eagle’s key big, and often the biggest kid on the court. Griffin, though, is just as tall, and for sheer mass looks to have an ample edge on Hendrix. So watching the two duke it out made for one of the night’s most entertaining matchups.

Hendrix sounded off on his TA counterpart: “Griffin, he’s a big kid, a strong kid. And [Will Chapman, 6-foot-5], he’s really long, so I figure if I make Chapman jump, and I can go around Griffin – I can figure out which one is in, and what I have to do to score.”

Jones made it 14-11; Gaudette then pickpocketed Maturo, uglying things up for the Scots. Jones player-control fouled, however, handing possession back to BE, and Nate Ferris capitalized with an o-reb/basket combo and 14-13. Shortly, Hendrix grabbed the o-reb on a missed Maturo free and dished back to Maturo, who slipped home a bucket and retook the upper-hand for his guys at 15-14. Finally, Maturo – as the best point guards like to do – converted on the last possession of the half, prying open a three-point advantage for Bonny Eagle, 17-14, at the break.

TA jumped on top with a quick pair of twos at the start of the third, Gawronski and Will Chapman doing the honors for 18-17. Maturo kept his calm, though – even looked patient on BE’s next possession as he approached the Trojans’ arc, where he casually surveyed his pass options before opting to just drain the three-pointer himself. A couple Jones frees next tied things up at 20-20, but that – that’s when the Scots slipped into their highest gear.

Hendrix started it, as mentioned: He popped home an o-reb for 22-20, after which notch BE never trailed again. Maturo continued to lead. He snatched a d-reb, drove upcourt and dished underneath to Jake Humphrey for a layup and 26-21. Then, on the last possession of the quarter, he spent a few seconds on the outside looking for a drive opportunity; not quite finding one, he shoveled mid-rush outward to Ferris, lingering downtown along the baseline. Ferris sank the three with seeming ease. 29-23.

“We got it to Will a couple times in the post,” Maturo said, asked how his boys managed to build their lead. “He got us like a three-point lead, and it just kept building with free-throws and good defense.”

“Just good offensive possessions,” Trull said. “Understanding what’s working; we run a bunch of different things on offense, and we’ll find out what works and try to stick with it. The guys all trust each other; the way they work together is pretty cool. Our team chemistry right now is pretty good.”

Humphrey – Maturo’s partner-in-crime and heir apparent – finished with just eight on the night; TA did a respectable job keeping him in check. But of course, pressuring heavily in one spot on the court just opens up others.

“If you take away Hump, Zach’s going to go, and if you take away Zach, Hump’s going to go,” Trull said. “We know teams are going to gameplan to do that, and our guys know how to contribute, if they try to take someone away – and you really can’t take them away completely, because they’re going to contribute on defense or things like that.”

“We knew that Anthony Bracamonte’s a great defender,” Maturo said, “so whoever he was guarding, we’re just going to expose the other defenders. He wasn’t guarding me, so I was going right by my guy. I just scored – got to the hoop.”

Of course the Trojans chomped at the Scots’ heels now and again as the contest wore on. TA pulled within five at 35-30 on a Ben Ham three midway through the fourth; then within five again at 39-34 on a couple Jones frees. Each time, though, BE proved good to the challenge – even when starters Hendrix and Gardner both fouled out in the waning minutes, BE never stumbled.

After Humphey hit pair of foul shots inside the last minute to make it 43-36, Jones drained a three, keeping the Trojans’ hopes alive. Still, the Scots were locked-in, just fated to win it. A Maturo feed underneath to Ferris for two made it 45-39; Maturo at the line made it 47-39; and Maturo at the line again made it 48-42 – and that with barely 10 seconds to play. The last points of the outing belonged to TA, but they wouldn’t be enough: 48-44 the final.

“At the beginning, we didn’t make foul shots,” Hendrix said. “At the end, we were making foul shots. And we were trying to get them into foul trouble as best we could. I think we did that very well.” BE went 1-6 at the line through the uphill half, and 11-14 in the downhill half.

The victory moved the Scots to 18-3 this winter. No. 2 Bonny Eagle defeated seven-seed Massabesic 49-34 in the quarters and three-seed South Portland 55-50 to reach the Regional Final. When the Scots and the Trojans locked horns in the regular season, TA captured the W, 70-62.

Bonny Eagle, now 18-3, will meet AA North reps Bangor in the State Final at the Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday night, March 2; game time: 9:05 p.m.

“We’re super-excited,” Maturo said. “This is the funnest thing I’ve ever done – with my best friends. So it’s pretty awesome.”

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Bonny Eagle Captains Will Hendrix (00) and Zach Maturo (1) charge toward their student-section fan contigent after receiving their AA South Championship plaque.

Zach Maturo collected this year’s George Vinall Award.

Will Hendrix performs the winners’ net-whipping ritual.

Cam Gardner collects his trophy.

Team Manager Darin Grabenstein has a go at the net.

Keegan Meredith nibbles at the net.

Chase Graves takes a turn with the net.

Nate Ferris has a go at the net.

Jake Humphrey snips a bit off the net.

Zach Maturo chops at the net with scissors, following BE’s win.

Jake Humphrey approaches the TA zone eagerly.

Scot Cam Gardner does what he can, mid-air, to navigate through heavy TA coverage.

Bonny Eagler Zach Maturo duels with TA defender Anthony Bracamonte.

Scot Logan Fogg drives forward on the attack.

Will Hendrix added 11 for BE in their win over Thornton.

The Scots pose with their new hardware.

Nate Ferris tries for a layup.