BANGOR - The Dexter boys basketball team faces a tall challenge Friday night, but certainly not one the Tigers feel is insurmountable. That challenge resides with Dexter's opponent for the 2005 Class C state championship, Western Maine titlist Hall-Dale of Farmingdale, which features 6-foot-10 senior center Matt Wheelock and 6-7 senior forward Jon Hill.
Wheelock, the WM tournament MVP, is comfortable both on the perimeter and near the basket, while Hill, a transfer from North Carolina, is more a prototypical power forward.
"As far as a Class C high school team goes, we're a difficult matchup for people because we have a 6-10 center, a 6-7 power forward, and a 6-3 player off the bench [Sam Shain] who's probably our best rebounder," said Bulldogs head coach Chris Ranslow, a 1997 Hall-Dale graduate.
Dexter isn't nearly as tall, but in seniors Chris Rabideau - the EM tourney MVP - and Tim McCarthy, the Tigers boast two top-notch inside players.
"The first thing that jumps out at you is their size; they've got two big kids," said Dexter coach Peter Murray. "But one thing we've got going for us is that while Rabideau and McCarthy may be only about 6-2, they're both strong and play like they're 6-4 or so, so we're not as small as it might seem."
Beyond the frontcourt height differential, Dexter and Hall-Dale boast many similarities as they head into the championship game, slated for approximately 9 p.m. at the Bangor Auditorium.
Both teams are senior-laden, with 19-2 Dexter using six seniors in its seven-player rotation and 20-1 Hall-Dale fielding seven seniors.
Both teams have lived up to high expectations, with the teams picked to meet in this game as far back as November.
Both teams were No. 1 seeds entering their regional tournaments.
Both teams hope to end lengthy state championship droughts. Dexter is seeking its first title since 1986, when the Tigers edged Gorham 51-48 to win the Class B championship. Hall-Dale is in search of its first gold ball since 1974, when the Bulldogs topped Shead of Eastport 63-47 for the Class C crown.
And both teams have deep perimeter corps. Dexter uses 5-9 senior Eric Day, 6-2 seniors Matt Murray and Mark Pullen, 6-0 senior Sam Bowers, and 5-10 junior Ryan Martin. Hall-Dale counters with 6-1 senior Ben Laflin - who scored 68 points in three WM tourney games - 6-2 junior point guard Jay Skillings, and 6-1 senior Jack Leet, the Bulldogs' top 3-point threat.
"They're a good team, they're not just tall," said Murray. "They have good guards, too. They've got the whole package."
Dexter's success this winter likewise has featured contributions from throughout its rotation, both offensively and defensively.
"Dexter's a very disciplined club on offense, and they look to up-tempo you on the defensive end with their trapping and aggressiveness," said Ranslow, whose team defeated WM tourney foes Telstar of Bethel, Jay, and Wiscasset by an average of 21.3 points. "They're real athletic, and they look to trap you in bad spots on the floor."
Dexter reached the state final with victories over Piscataquis of Guilford, Madawaska, and a 42-37 victory over Penquis in the EM title game last Saturday night. The Tigers hope that Bangor Auditorium magic will last one more night.
"A lot of people think the Auditorium is worth a couple of points to the Eastern Maine team because the environment is so different from Augusta," said Murray. "I know during the fourth quarter against Penquis, the Dexter crowd was in a frenzy, and that definitely helped."
Yet the Tigers also know they will have to overcome Hall-Dale's height, the likes of which Maine schoolboy teams rarely face.
"Height is height, and it will definitely be a factor because it can only help them," said Murray. "We need to rebound, and we need
to shoot the ball well because with their size, we might not get to the basket as easily as we might against a team that doesn't have that height."
|Back to News||Home||Print This Story|