Here’s to the survivors, particularly the Brewer Witches and Orono Red Riots, who claimed the final boys basketball tournament berths in northern Maine by the slimmest of margins on Thursday evening.
Brewer edged Mt. Blue of Farmington 49-47 to capture the eighth and final Class A North playoff berth.
Coach Ben Goodwin’s club edged No. 9 Gardiner — one of the preseason favorites in the division — by 0.3703 of a Heal point — after the Tigers also closed out their season with a victory over 1-17 Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.
Brewer looked destined to watch the postseason from afar until its 39-38 win over third-ranked Skowhegan on Jan. 27. Losses to Class AA Bangor and red-hot Cony of Augusta followed, but the Witches regrouped to upend No. 5 Camden Hills of Rockport on the road Tuesday night before the narrow escape against 1-17 Mt. Blue.
The Witches now will continue practicing in advance of their regional quarterfinal against top-ranked Hampden Academy at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Augusta Civic Center.
Orono’s tournament qualification margin was nearly as slim, as the Red Riots edged Old Town 40-38 on Thursday night to slip past Foxcroft Academy by 0.4938 of a Heal point for the 11th and final playoff berth in Class B North.
Orono’s chances looked shaky after coach Jason Coleman’s club dropped a 75-67 double-overtime loss at Foxcroft on Tuesday night, but the win over the Coyotes enabled the Red Riots to live for at least another game amid the tightest race in the North boys ranks — the Red Riots were just 0.0717 of a point behind No. 10 MCI of Pittsfield and 1.3578 points behind No. 9 Belfast.
The 6-12 Red Riots, whose most pointworthy victory this winter was a 51-40 decision over 15-3 Winslow on Dec. 16, will travel to No. 6 Ellsworth for a preliminary-round game next week. Ellsworth (11-7) holds two regular-season wins over Orono.
The other races at the bottom of the playoff chase weren’t quite as tense. In Class C, Sumner of East Sullivan finished nearly nine Heal points ahead of Hodgdon for the 14th seed and final prelim berth, while Shead of Eastport finished 3.2 points ahead of Wisdom of Saint Agatha for the No. 11 seed and final playoff spot in Class D North.
All eight teams in Class AA advance to the regional quarterfinals, but losses this week to Hampden Academy (80-73) and Edward Little of Auburn (64-61) mean Bangor will finish fifth and have to travel to No. 4 Windham for its quarterfinal next week.
Bangor and Windham split during the regular season, with each team winning on the other team’s home court.