Matt Arsenault isn’t one to sit back and wait for someone else to make something happen.
With two-time defending state champion Lawrence of Fairfield in possession of the ball and leading 41-37 in the final minute of the third quarter, Old Town’s sophomore point guard knew it was time to make his move.
Arsenault scored layups 44 seconds apart off his own back-to-back steals, igniting an emotion-filled fourth-quarter flurry that carried Old Town to a 55-50 victory and the Eastern Maine Class A basketball title Saturday night at the Bangor Auditorium.
Coach Marty Clark’s Indians will take an 18-3 record into Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. Class A state title contest against Western Maine champ Biddeford (14-7) at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Bulldogs of Mike McGee completed their season at 18-3.
Arsenault’s clutch play seemed to awaken the Indians, who followed his lead in the fourth. Instead of falling victim to the big-game pressure, Old Town seized the momentum and went right at the ‘Dogs.
“The Presque Isle game was the only time we’ve come from behind to win this year, so we were worried,” the elated Arsenault said. “I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t just stand back. I did the best I could.”
Lawrence had a chance to up the lead to eight points late in the third, but a tap-away steal by Old Town sophomore Steve Pooler led to a power move by Casey Costigan that made it 41-37 with 37 seconds left in the period. Again, the Bulldogs patiently worked the clock for the last shot, but Arsenault picked off an errant pass and raced down for a layup that cut the deficit to two points with three seconds left.
Already beginning to sense the momentum switch, Arsenault came up with another steal 41 seconds into the fourth quarter and converted with a layup to tie the game at 41-41.
“Matt Arsenault did a helluva job stealing the ball out front,” said Old Town senior Chad Blake. “A couple key steals turned the whole game around. The momentum got going our way and we just came back, fought hard and won the game.”
Lawrence went inside to 6-foot-6 senior Lenny Cole, who sandwiched a foul shot and a baseline layup around a rebound hoop by Old Town’s Pooler. However, Blake burst in for a runner from the lane at the 5:56 mark and Arsenault scored off a driving move 46 seconds later to put the Indians on top 47-44 and force Lawrence to call a timeout.
“That took some guts,” Clark said. “I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to do it. What a second half: extra intensity and great poise down the stretch. Matt Arsenault…. that was one of the best games I’ve seen anybody play at the point, any grade.
“When Mike (McGee) called timeout, there was so much enthusiasm there I couldn’t even talk to them they were so fired up. They believed in themselves. They never let up.”
The Bulldogs actually came back to take a 48-47 lead on a rebound basket by Scott Walker and a garbage hoop from the lane by Cole with 3:30 to play. But, Old Town responded in kind.
Costigan, a 6-6 forward, hit from inside at 3:10 to make it 49-48. Then, 6-7 sophomore John L’Heureux rejected a shot by Walker. The ‘Dogs had two more shots miss, before Blake’s driving layup pushed the lead to three with 1:41 to go.
Thirty seconds later, L’Heureux rebounded a Cole miss and, after a timeout, Old Town iced it when Costigan lobbed the ball inside to L’Heureux for a lay-in that made it 53-48.
Old Town’s 1-2-2 defense was good enough to prohibit Cole and Walker from dominating the inside action. The Indians were able to limit second shots with a balanced rebounding effort.
Arsenault scored 16 points on 7-for-11 floor shooting, including 10 points in the second half. He also directed the Old Town offense with tremendous poise. Costigan was outstanding, netting 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Blake contributed 9 big points and 3 assists, while L’Heureux shook off foul trouble while added 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Sophomores Scott Springer and Pooler also provided strong defense and rebounding, and senior David Randall was steady coming off the bench.
Cole paced Lawrence with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Walker ha Cole paced Lawrence with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Walker had 13 points and 9 boards, and Aaron Harris added 8 points.
Indians 55, Bulldogs 50
Old Town Lawrence boys
Name AG G AF F TP Name AG G AF F TP
Theriault 0 0 0 0 0 Winship 1 0 0 0 0
Blake 9 4 1 0 9 A. Harris 10 3 0 0 8
Arsenault 11 7 3 2 16 Beverage 6 2 0 0 6
Randall 2 1 0 0 2 Short 0 0 0 0 0
Springer 1 1 3 1 3 Walker 9 5 4 3 13
Pooler 2 2 0 0 4 M. Harris 3 0 7 4 4
Costigan 11 7 2 1 15 Ward 1 1 0 0 2
L’Heureux 6 3 0 0 6 L. Cole 18 8 3 1 17
B. Cole 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 42 25 9 4 55 Totals 48 19 14 8 50
Old Town 13 26 39 55
Lawrence 14 28 41 50
3-pt. goals: Old Town (1-5): Blake 1-4, Randall 0-1; Lawrence (4-13): A. Harris 2-6, Beverage 2-3, M. Harris 0-2, L. Cole 0-2