DEXTER - As the Genie portable lift elevated a member of the Dexter High custodial staff toward the ceiling of Guiski Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon to contain a leak in the roof, the flashbacks were inevitable.
Twenty years earlier, a similar lift was brought in to deal with a leak in the Bangor Auditorium roof, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic nights in Maine basketball history - an evening capped off after midnight when Dexter outlasted Rockland 63-61 in five overtimes to win the 1986 Eastern Maine Class B title.
"We were talking about that," said Peter Murray, the boys varsity coach at Dexter, who was an assistant coach on the 1986 squad. "John Shoppe reffed the five-overtime game, and he was reffing here Saturday, too. I asked him if it reminded him of anything."
As in 1986, the leak was contained, and Dexter went on to an overtime victory - the latest one a single-overtime 47-41 win over Central of Corinth.
As in 1986, this year's Dexter team is the defending Eastern Maine champ, this time in Class C. But while the 1986 squad was a veteran unit, this year's team has a different look from the 2005 edition.
Six of last year's top seven players graduated, but the Tigers have regrouped quite nicely, with their seven-game winning streak elevating them to an 8-2 record and second place in the latest Heal Point ratings.
"The last three or four years, it's been pretty easy to coach here, because there was a group that had played together since first grade," Murray said. "This year the first three or four games people were unsure of their roles. It's just been a slow, gradual progress."
Defense has sparked the Tigers' success. Since yielding 54 points in back-to-back losses to Penobscot Valley of Howland and Central, Dexter has not allowed more than 42 points in a game.
"At the beginning of the year I felt we could extend the court and be a pressing team due to our quickness," said Murray. "As it turned out, the kids seem to be more comfortable playing in the half-court."
Senior Ryan Martin, an Eastern Maine Class C all-tourney honorable mention choice a year ago, leads the team in scoring, rebounds and assists, but fellow veterans Nick Peirce and Brad Lavin have played key roles, Lavin stepping in at point guard. Other key contributors have included Brandon Woodman, Adam Eastman and Steve Robinson, a 6-foot-4 junior who is back after missing three games due to a back injury.
"Early in the season when we were struggling from time to time, [Ryan] was carrying the team," said Murray. "But as the season has gone along other people have stepped up."
A 48-42 win Jan. 5 at Penquis of Milo in a rematch of the 2005 Eastern C final boosted the Tigers' confidence, Murray said. The team has won three straight since then, avenging their only losses along the way.
"We've got a nice run going," said Murray, whose club plays at Hermon tonight.
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