BANGOR – With 3.8 seconds left and the Ellsworth High School boys’ basketball team down three points Wednesday night, coach Peter Austin thought the Class B North semifinal game against Caribou was likely over.
“I knew we had one more shot,” Austin said. “But I thought it could be the end.”
Up 40-37, Caribou fans had already begun celebrating when Ellsworth junior guard Bryce Harmon received the inbounds pass and raced down the court. He took a running shot from behind the 3-point arc just before the buzzer sounded and, for a split second, the Cross Insurance Center fell quiet.
Until the ball fell through the hoop.
Harmon’s bank shot tied the score 40-40 to send the game into overtime, where senior forward Bruce St. Peter hit the winning field goal in the final seconds for the No. 2-ranked Ellsworth Eagles.
Ellsworth (16-4) beat the No. 6 Caribou Vikings 42-40 and will play fourth-seeded Orono at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday for the Class B Northern Maine title.
Caribou ended its season 12-9.
Before those two key baskets, senior forward Nicholas Bagley’s 3-point shooting kept Ellsworth in the game.
Ellsworth’s shots were not falling in the first quarter. Bagley put the Eagles on the board with a layup after a scoreless five minutes. Meanwhile, Caribou had put up six points.
“Caribou was very patient with their offense,” Austin said. “They controlled the tempo, so it was difficult for us to get going.”
Bagley sparked the Eagles at the buzzer with his first of five 3-pointers, and Ellsworth entered the second quarter down just 6-5.
Bagley scored another pair of 3’s, as well as 11 first-half points, to carry the Eagles into halftime with a narrow 17-16 lead.
St. Peter scored the first points of the third quarter after he grabbed his own rebound and put it up for a field goal.
The Vikings answered with a layup and a free throw to tie the score 19-19.
Bagley then gave Ellsworth a six-point lead with another two 3-pointers, even casually tossing in a third one after the play was called dead. Ellsworth ended the third quarter up 27-21.
“He kept us going early on,” Austin said of Bagley. “He had a good game.”
Caribou senior guard Donovan Savage reminded the Eagles that the game was not over when he hit a 3-pointer early in the final period. The two teams exchanged leads over the next seven minutes. But with 17.1 seconds left, senior forward Ricky Sheldon scored from under the basket to bring the Vikings up 38-37.
Savage drained two free throws to extend that lead to three points with less than four seconds left. Somehow, Harmon found a way to keep Ellsworth’s postseason run alive.
In the four-minute overtime period, both teams went scoreless until the final seconds, when St. Peter drove into the paint and pulled up against Sheldon for the contested jump shot.
When asked where this game ranked over his coaching career, Austin responded, “Probably the top.”
“Those were two incredible shots,” he said.