Prelim: Raiders nearly dig themselves out of a big hole, fall short in rally against GNG

JON BURK had a big night in his final high school basketball game, leading the Raiders with 21 points and 20 rebounds. (Rivet Photo)

JON BURK had a big night in his final high school basketball game, leading the Raiders with 20 points and 21 rebounds. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — If Tuesday was going to be Jonathan Burk’s final high school basketball game, he was going down fighting.

With his team struggling mightily at both ends of the court in the Class B West preliminary game against ninth-ranked Gray-New Gloucester, Burk nearly brought the Raiders back from a deep hole.

Burk scored a game-high 20 points, hauled down 21 rebounds and blocked five shots, but it wasn’t enough.

Gray-New Gloucester (9-10) showed more patience on offense and opened up a double-digit lead in the second quarter off a 15-3 run to hold off the Raiders (9-10) 52-48 at Wadsworth Arena. The Patriots move on to the quarterfinals Saturday against top-seed Yarmouth.

Raider players had to feel there was a lid over their basket in the first half as they shot an icy 5-of-30 from the field, despite several in-close looks. FA took an 8-7 lead after one period as Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland dished the ball inside to Winston Richards for a score.

Gray-NG pulled ahead in the second as captain Andreas Kariotis (9 points, 8 rebounds) sparked the run with a pair of 3-pointers.

Fryeburg, meanwhile, clanged shot after shot to the tune of 1-for-14 — the one made shot by Ryan Gullikson on a strong baseline drive with 2:16 remaining in the half.

“I think we rushed our shots. We weren’t in rhythm. There were a lot of one pass, shoot shots. We didn’t get the ball inside, we weren’t patient enough,” FA Coach Sedge Saunders said. “I thought we did a better job in the second quarter, but just didn’t get shots to fall. That’s where you really need to get some offensive rebounds, and we didn’t rebound well. You need to find a way to get some points on the board, whether it is offensive rebounds or getting to the foul line. We didn’t do either.”

NACHO CALLEJA twists for a shot during second half action against Gray-New Gloucester in Tuesday night's preliminary tournament game. (Rivet Photo)

NACHO CALLEJA twists for a shot during second half action against Gray-New Gloucester in Tuesday night's preliminary tournament game. (Rivet Photo)

Despite a horrid shooting first half, Coach Saunders pointed out to his team that they were down just 11 and could rebound with better decision making — better passes against the Patriots’ zone, as well as better shot selection.

“As bad as we’ve played — and it was pretty bad, 5-for-30 — we made some bad plays defensively, getting beat on balls thrown over the top of our defense, which we talked about not letting happen, a point of emphasis — down 11 wasn’t as bad as it seemed. We really felt we could get back into the game if we made better decisions and valued possessing the ball. They are not a super explosive team,” Coach Saunders said.

Leading scorer Ryan Gullikson seemed to shake some doldrums that have followed him over the last few games. After scoring just four points in the first half, Gullikson knocked down a 3-pointer and aggressively drove to the hoop.

Down 34-25 entering the fourth quarter, Fryeburg tried to turn the heat up on Gray-NG with full-court pressure. At times, it worked, generating turnovers leading to quick hoops, including a straightaway 3-pointer by Nacho Calleja. A pair of foul shots by Gullikson cut the Patriot lead to 38-32 with 5:13 left in regulation.

The Raiders nearly climbed out of that deep hole with 3:03 left as Calleja zipped a pass inside to Gullikson for an easy hoop, and following a steal by Calleja, Gullikson scored on a fastbreak chance, was fouled and made a foul shot to close FA to 40-37.

With both teams in the double-bonus, Gray-NG was able to hold off the Raiders’ late charge by making just enough foul shots (12-of-21 in the fourth quarter) to escape with a victory.

The Patriots were also the recipient of some good fortune. Attempting to save the ball from going out of bounds, a Raider flicked the ball back into play under his own basket. Zach Haskell (16 points, 11 rebounds) was the lucky Patriot, snagging the ball loose ball for a layup. He was also fouled by Gullikson (his fifth personal), and made the free throw for a 46-38 lead with 2:19 left.

With Gullikson out of the game, Burk put the game on his shoulders. Several times, he ripped down the defensive rebound, bolted up the court and took the ball strong to the rim. His acrobatic, one-handed scoop shot and free throw, made with 40.8 seconds, closed the gap to 48-44.

“Jonathan has been on the varsity for four years and he’s had a lot of experience. He’s put a lot into it and wasn’t going out without a fight. He knows he can make big plays at key moments, and with Ryan out of the game, we wanted the ball in his hands. He gave us a great chance,” Coach Saunders said.

Tyler St. Pierre (11 points) sank a pair of foul shots to keep the Raiders just out of comeback range. Burk made it interesting by snagging an offensive rebound, retreating to the arc and knocking down a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left, leaving FA behind 51-48.

Unable to come up with a steal off the inbounds, FA fouled Kariotis with 2.9 seconds left. He made one foul shot, but it was enough to seal the deal.

“When you have to dig out of a hole like that, there isn’t much room for error. We had too many bad turnovers,” a dejected Coach Saunders said. “There is a fine line between trying to make a play to get back into the game and making a bad decision and giving the ball back. We were being aggressive, which I liked, but we had chances to make an extra pass and get a better shot, but we didn’t do it consistently.”

Unlike their loss last week to York, Coach Saunders liked the energy his team played with (it was electric inside the arena as both student bodies were loud throughout the game).

“We had good effort. Obviously, our execution wasn’t great, and zones can do that to you. We haven’t faced many zones, and our personnel is better suited to get the ball out in transition. We do well against man defenses. Zones can take you out of your rhythm, and that’s what exactly happened to us,” he said. “We clawed our way back and had a chance to win the game. Defensively, if a couple of those rebounds bounced our way, we had a chance. But, not a lot of margin for error digging out of that hole.”

As Coach Saunders took a few photos with his players before they left the locker room, he congratulated them on a successful season.

“This doesn’t define the season we had. Sure, it was a heartbreaking way for it to end, but overall, we had a really good year. We had to replace some guys from the previous year, these guys really stepped it up. Two big wins over Lake Region, how many teams beat them this year? We had some good road wins,” he said. “All in all, it was a good year and we gave ourselves a chance to advance. We did everything we could. It hurts right now, but these are all good kids and they will put it behind them and move on to great things.”

To sum up the evening, the coach kept it simple. “Give Gray credit, they are well-coached and they earned it. No doubt.”

Stat lines

For the Raiders, Nacho Calleja finished with 6 points, Ben Southwick 4 and Winston Richards 2.

Turnovers: FA 11, GNG 17

FT: FA 12-23, GNG 16-28

FG: FA 16-61, GNG 17-50

Rebounds: FA 37, GNG 38


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