AUGUSTA—The George Stevens Academy Eagles raised the gold ball and took home the Class C state championship with a 59-46 win over the Waynflete Flyers at the Augusta Civic Center on February 27.
“Right from the start [of the season] we thought we had a chance,” Coach Dwayne Carter said. Behind him, the 14 players who make up the Eagles varsity team passed the gold ball from hand to hand, posing for photos for press, family and fans.
The top-ranked Eagles played tough defense to pull away in the fourth quarter, after three quarters of the Flyers edging just behind GSA in scoring.
Waynflete had posted the first score of the game one minute in before sophomore Taylor Schildroth shot a clean three-pointer to start his nine-point run in the first quarter. The Eagle’s 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter slipped to one point with less than one minute left . A field goal by Chase stretched the lead to three to end the first half at 25-22.
“They attacked the sides,” Carter said. “They looked a lot bigger here [than expected].”
The Flyers stepped up their shot-making and defense in the third quarter, while the Eagles racked up five fouls, but an eight-point run by junior Beckett Slayton kept the Eagles in the lead. They went into the final quarter at 40-35 and pulled away to win by 13 points.
For senior starting center, Nick Szwez, this was stellar way to end his varsity career. But he said he wasn’t looking to far ahead past the opening tip-off.
“Around 5:48 [in the fourth quarter] I thought we would win,” senior starting guard Nick Szwez said. “I’m happy I got to win my last game . That’s something special. Not everyone can do that.”
The Eagle’s run to the state championship was not without drama. After the top-ranked Eagles crushed #8 Fort Kent 73-28 in the quarterfinals and shut down #5 Schenck 68-39 in the semis, they had to gut out a tough 55-43 win against #3 Bucksport to win the Class C North title.
Carter worked the Eagles defense to advantage, capitalizing on 6’6” center Max Mattson and 6’4” Szwez to guard the net and rebound while Schildroth and juniors Slayton and Jarrod Chase and Slayton worked to keep Waynflete from entering the paint.
“Nick Szwez is real solid in defense,” Carter said. “Max [Mattson] is a great rebounder.”
On the offense, Schildroth, able to break down his opponents’ defense to drive for a lay up or dance at the perimeter for three point shots, led the Eagles against Waynflete with 23 points. Slayton paced the team with 14, while Chase scored 10, including four straight foul shots in the last two minutes of play, and. Mattson chipped in 10.
With the state championship win, GSA finishes 21-1 for the season .Waynflete, the #4 team from the South, who clinched the regional title in overtime against second-ranked Winthrop, finish 19-3.
“It was an incredible night. I am so proud of the guys and their accomplishments. We have a true basketball family…It’s great how kids can create so much excitement and bring a community together. The support we have received has been tremendous and I know each and every one of us appreciate it greatly.”—Coach Dwayne Carter
The Eagles boys are now three for three after winning the Class C regional in 1979 and 2003 and then continuing for the state championship win. They also were crowned state champions in 1943.
Local fans celebrated the championship team with a parade down Main Street and a reception at GSA on February 28 .
In post-season honors, Carter was named coach of the 2016 Maine McDonald’s Class C/D North High School Senior All-Star Team, with Szwez and senior Will Entwisle, out for the last third season with a concussion, named to the team. Chase was named the Foul Shooting Regional Champion for the East Region. The foul shooting competition and All-Star game will be held at Husson University on Saturday, March 12, beginning at 8:45 a.m.