Defense, grit nets Lee season-opening upset of two-time defending state champs

When the Lee Academy and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill boys basketball teams met for the first time last season, GSA’s Taylor Schildroth ripped the nets for 61 points as the Eagles scored a 97-69 victory en route to their second straight Class C state championship.

Their first meeting this season couldn’t have been more different.

Lee found the antidote for George Stevens’ high-scoring ways in a 2-3 zone, and the Pandas used a fast start on defense as the catalyst for a season-opening 62-47 victory at Mallett Gymnasium in Lee.

“We had a simple plan,” said longtime Lee head coach Randy Harris, “to try to contain their two best players (Schildroth and center Max Mattson) and we thought our best chance to do that was with a 2-3 zone so we could double-team both of them whenever they had the ball.”

GSA, which brought a 27-game winning streak into the contest and had won 50 of its previous 51 contests, managed just one first-quarter field goal – tha after grabbing an offensive rebound – and shot just 1 of 13 from the field during the game’s first eight minutes as Lee built a 13-2 lead.

“Being ahead 13-2 gave us confidence and kids really got after it on defensive end,” said Harris. “A big key was the fact we rebounded well, limiting them to one shot on many of their possessions.”

GSA was not without its own resilience, using a 13-3 run to rally from a 26-7 deficit to within 29-20 by intermission.

The Eagles then got as close as three points early in the second half, but Lee regrouped to extend its lead back to double digits and never allowed that advantage to get to fewer than seven points during the game’s late stages.

“We have team bracelets that read, ‘All we need is all you got,’” said Harris, “and at least for Saturday’s game they delivered on that team motto.”

Lee was sparked by its only four players with significant experience from a year ago, when the Pandas finished 14-5 and reached the Class C North quarterfinals.

Sophomore guard Kuan Yeh led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds, while senior point guard Sammy Huang added 13 points and seven assists, sophomore wing Willy Hsu had 12 points on four 3-pointers in the first half and 6-5 senior center Alexey Platonov shook off foul trouble to amass 10 points and 10 rebounds in limited action.

The Pandas also got timely contributions from Matt Knowles, Randy McLeod and Jacob Harriman as Lee limited GSA to 27 percent shooting (18 of 66) from the field overall, 22 percent (8 of 36) on 3-pointers.

Reece Dannenberg led George Stevens with 20 points – including six 3-pointers – while Schildroth finished with 18.

The Lee-GSA rematch is set for Jan. 6, 2018, at Blue Hill.

“I am extremely proud of my entire team for Saturday’s win,” said Harris, “but we know GSA is still the favorite in Class C North and it’s only one game and we must continue to improve throughout the season to be a serious contender by tourney time.”

Ernie Clark

About Ernie Clark

I'm a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, my coverage areas range from high school sports to mixed martial arts.