Bridgton Claims Prep Crown

Whit Lesure's group didn't look like a championship team on paper, but a group of unheralded players got the job done as Bridgton claimed its first-ever NEPSAC Class A crown on Sunday with a victory against South Kent.

Whit Lesure has a pair of NEPSAC crowns to his credit back from his days at the helm at New Hampton, but now the veteran prep school coach has brought Bridgton Academy (Maine) its first Class A title after a 90-67 victory against South Kent (Conn.) on Sunday.

Oakland-bound undersized power forward Derick Nelson proved to be the difference down the stretch, making key baskets and also doing a good job on the defensive end against potential NBA first-round pick Andray Blatche.

Nelson finished with 24 points and 15 boards while Montrell McDonald (George Washington) led the team with 27 points. Unsigned senior guard Tyrone Appleton added 18 in the win.

Bridgton trailed 41-40 at the break and led by four points midway through the second half before breaking the game open down the stretch.

Bridgton, playing without a legitimate high-major player this season, finished the year 30-6 and on a 16-game winning streak. The Wolverines knocked off Notre Dame Prep, 86-74, in the semifinals and beat Maine Central Institute in the quarterfinals.

Bridgton had made the title game once in Lesure's seven seasons and had four semifinal appearances.

``The reason this means so much to me is because it meant so much to our guys," Lesure said. "They were consistent all year and took every game seriously. When the championship was on the line, they stepped up for that, too."

``We may not have a star, but we have some very good players," added Lesure. "Teams have seemingly come into vogue in the last couple of years with the Patriots, Red Sox and Detroit Pistons winning titles with chemistry. Now little old Bridgton Academy in its own league is winning without a star."

South Kent and coach Raphael Chillious finished the season 32-9 in just its second season in the Class A ranks. South Kent was led by Blatche, who had 21 points.

``The difference was Derick Nelson in the second half," Lesure said. "With 10 minutes to go, he took over the game."

In the Class B title game, top-seeded Trinity Pawling (N.Y.) knocked off Tilton (N.H.), 51-45. Unsigned guard Jon Han led Tilton with 20 points.

Hofstra-bound point guard Gregg Johnson scored 20 points, had 10 assists and grabbed 9 rebounds as Holderness (N.H.) claimed its second consecutive Class C crown with a 62-55 victory against St. Mark's (Mass.). Gerald Carter (Marist) also had 22 for Holderness.

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