BANGOR - Chris Rabideau didn't know much about the Madawaska boys basketball team entering Friday night's Eastern Maine Class C semifinal. But when the Owls jumped out to a 6-0 lead over Rabideau and his Dexter teammates less than two minutes into the contest, the learning curve accelerated out of necessity.
The Tigers proved themselves quick studies, quickly erasing Madawaska's early advantage and wearing down the Owls 52-39 at the Bangor Auditorium.
"When they came out 6-0 on us, we knew it was going to be a game," said Rabideau, a 6-foot-3 senior forward who finished with game-high totals of 14 points and 11 rebounds. "But once the game settled down things started working better for us."
No. 1 Dexter (18-2) will play in the Eastern Maine final for the second time in three years at 8:35 Saturday night when it faces No. 2 Penquis of Milo.
Dexter and Penquis split two regular-season meetings. Dexter won 44-37 at home on Jan. 6, while Penquis earned a 42-38 overtime victory at Milo on Jan. 28.
No. 4 Madawaska, which posted the program's first-ever tournament win at the Bangor Auditorium on Wednesday, finishes with a 15-4 record.
Dexter got a big lift off the bench from junior forward Ryan Martin, who scored 11 points and made all three of his 3-point shots, including one with 1:52 left in the game that gave Dexter a 46-37 lead and essentially put this game away.
"That's not a surprise to us," said Dexter coach Peter Murray of Martin's contribution. "He's been doing that all through his career. He's just a heady ballplayer, and he's that way in all the sports he plays."
What may have surprised Dexter was Madawaska's quick start, as senior point guard Myles Morneault (11 points) hit a jumper from the lane and a 3-pointer and Kenny Sirois added 1 of 2 free throws for a quick six-point edge.
But while Madawaska controlled the backboards through the end of the first quarter, seven early turnovers prevented the Owls from extending their lead. By the end of the period, Dexter was within 10-7.
The second quarter featured four ties and three lead changes, the final one when Martin scored after grabbing an offensive rebound with three seconds left to give Dexter a 21-20 halftime lead.
The Tigers then took the lead for good, outscoring Madawaska 13-4 at the outset of the third period. Jumpers by Matt Murray and Mark Pullen got Dexter off to a quick start, and Eric Day (10 points) connected from beyond the arc before the Tigers began pounding the ball inside to Rabideau and senior center Tim McCarthy, who had nine points and seven boards.
Rabideau scored six points in the third, and Martin gave the Tigers yet another lift when he hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to extend the lead to 37-26.
"At the start of the second half, we looked tired," said Madawaska coach Matt Rossignol. "We didn't get out to their shooters at the start, and then when we did get out there, we were lunging and then they were able to get it down low."
And while Owls did rally to within six points at 43-37 on a 3-pointer by Matt Beaulieu with 2:46 left in the game, Martin's final 3 ended any comeback hopes.
"I had a good warm-up before the game, and when I hit my first couple of shots that gave me a lot of confidence," said Martin.
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