BEVERLY, Mass. -- Bridgton Academy survived some scary moments, but in the end, the top seeded Wolverines emerged with a 74-67 victory over Northfield Mount Hermon on Wednesday night at the NEPSAC quarterfinals.
"This is a group I've been confident in all season long," said a relieved Bridgton Head Coach Whit Lesure after the game. "Everyone can criticize us and say that we are this and that, but all I know is that we keep winning."
Bridgton never was able to pull away from Bill Batty's scrappy Hoggers squad, who trailed 37-31 at the half. In fact, Northfield Mount Hermon grabbed a 47-45 lead with 11:59 remaining on a lay-in by forward Cori Boston.
Clinging to a 54-53 lead, Bridgton used an 8-2 run to grab a 62-55 lead with 6:02 to play. New Hampshire signee Alray Taylor was crucial in the run, scoring six points as he attacked the glass with reckless abandon.
Still, the Hoggers hung around and cut the lead to two points on several occasions in the final three minutes. The Wolverines put the game out of reach from the charity stripe, as Darin Shine connected on five of six free throws and Carlos Rivera nailed a late pair to extend Bridgton's lead to 73-67 with 32.2 ticks left.
Alexander Johnson, the Wolverines' terrific unsigned senior 6-9 power forward prospect, led all scorers with 23 points. That said, he did definitely not bring his "A" game on Wednesday, as he shot poorly from the floor and converted only nine of 17 free throw attempts. He was engaged in a physical battle all game long with Northfield Mount Hermon's unheralded but effective 6-6 big man Sam Manhanga.
Taylor scored nine of his 15 points in the second half for Bridgton, while the Hofstra bound Rivera added 14.
Kashif Payne, an electric 5-6 junior, paced NMH with 20 points. The Brown bound Manhanga chipped in 15 points and Boston tallied 13 for the Hoggers, who ended the season at 19-7.