Maranacook High’s boys’ basketball journey continues because the Black Bears got past a Wells team that has made the Class B South final feel like a second home.

Behind junior guard Cash McClure’s 23-point, 11-rebound effort, top-seed Maranacook of Readfield and the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference beat Wells, 60-48, in the regional final Friday afternoon at Cross Insurance Arena.

Maranacook is the first non-Western Maine Conference team to win this regional since Mountain Valley in 2007. Wells, representing the WMC, was in its fourth straight regional final, their last two following 8-10 regular seasons.

Maranacook (19-2) reached the regional semifinal last season but graduated eight players, and veteran coach Rob Schmidt resigned so he could watch his own daughter play.

“We owe a lot of credit to Coach Schmidt,” said Maranacook Coach Travis Magnusson, who coached Dirigo to the 2012 Class C title. “This was my first year and I teach at the school, so I knew the kids and it’s a good fit, but it’s a very talented team. I feel fortunate to be helping them with their journey.”

Having McClure back also helped. The 6-footer has an innate sense of how to slice his slender frame through traffic, with the speed and vision to push the ball in transition and create for himself and his teammates.

“It’s been a journey. Since I was a freshman, we’ve been working for this. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was five years old,” McClure said. “This feeling right now, I can’t even explain it, but next weekend, hopefully, we can come home with one more.”

The Black Bears, who last won a state championship in 2008 when they were classified as an Eastern Maine school (now North), will play the winner of Saturday’s North final between Ellsworth (17-3) and defending state champion Caribou (19-1). The state final is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. Friday at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center.

McClure scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half as Maranacook built a 31-21 lead. He finished off the win with six straight free throws in the final 1:16.

The Black Bears shined defensively, using quick hands to force nine first-half turnovers. Many came when Maranacook was able to deflect interior passes as Wells attempted to pound the ball into its big men, Gavyn Leighton and Nate Chandler. Those deflections often led to fast breaks, usually finished by McClure.

“They’re really quick. They’re quick to double down, which is important to them, and they’re quick to the shooters outside. So they’re a good defense,” Chandler said.

Several times in the second half, Maranacook seemed on the verge of building an insurmountable lead, only to have No. 6 Wells (10-11) chip its way back.

Down 13 early in the second half, the Warriors cut the lead to six on three occasions in the third quarter.

“I thought there was a chance we might get blown out, and my kids just wouldn’t let that happen,” said Wells Coach Troy Brown. “We came back with something to fight off that big separation by them.”

Wells senior Covy Dufort, a pass-first defensive specialist, scored five straight points. Then Chandler, a 6-5 senior forward, got five in a row from inside the paint.

But Maranacook answered each time, with 3-pointers from Skyler Boucher and Casey Cormier (16 points) and then a putback by McClure. After scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter, Maranacook led by at least nine points the rest of the way.

Chandler led Wells with 12 points. Dufort, Leighton and Caleb Corey each scored nine.

Wells, the regional champion in 2017 and 2018 and the runner-up last year, will graduate only three players.

“This is my third time here. It’s crazy that I got to do that all through high school,” Chandler said. “But those guys that are in that room right now, I know they can get here again because I know they’ve got a lot of talent.”

 

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