ORONO, Maine — Orono head coach Jessica Witham wanted her team to be more aggressive during the second half and the adjustment paid off as the Red Riots got to the line 14 times and used strong interior play to pull away from Washington Academy for a 46-31 girls basketball victory Thursday night.
“We talked at halftime about how we only needed to get to the line more in the second half,” Witham said.
The Riots scored seven of their 12 points in the fourth quarter from the charity stripe.
Junior guard Hannah Clement scored 10 points and senior forward Katie Sypher chipped in with nine to spark the Orono offense.
The Riots (10-4) used an 11-4 surge midway through the second quarter to push the lead to 22-14 by halftime, and exploited Washington Academy’s zone defense by answering with three 3-pointers in the first half.
Junior guard Login Huckins did her best to keep Washington Academy (5-10) in the game by netting a game-high 16 points, but Orono extended the lead to 12 early in the third quarter, which forced Washington Academy coach Gary Wood to call a time-out.
“Our defense in the beginning of the game wasn’t bad,” said Wood. “We don’t match up well with Sypher.”
Wood was pleased with his team’s effort in the first half, but felt it lost confidence in the later stages of the game as Orono enforced its will to put the game away late in the second half.
“You have to give Orono a lot of credit,” he said. “They press the whole game and that bothered us.”
The press enabled Orono to feed off of its opponents miscues and turn them into points.
“As a team, we just try to wear people down,” said Witham. “Over time we try to grind it out defensively and force some turnovers to get baskets in transition.”
Sypher used her size and strength to score six of her nine points in the fourth quarter as Orono seized control of the game. After a Huckins basket that brought the Raiders to within 10 early in the third quarter, the Riots took advantage of turnovers and their size to maintain a 12- to 15- point lead throughout the second half.
“I thought our forwards rebounded well and battled hard in the second half.” said Witham.
A layup from forward Rylea Steeves brought Washington Academy to within striking distance, 34-21 with 7:30 left in the fourth before Orono started pounding the ball inside and drawing fouls as they continued to extend their lead.
Up next for Orono is Mattanawcook Academy this Saturday as the Riots continue to push for a top seed in the Eastern Maine Class C tournament. They currently sit sixth in the Heal points. The Raiders travel to Bucksport Saturday and currently hold the final playoff position.