AUGUSTA, Maine — Just when the Bangor girls basketball team finally figured out a way to exploit its inside strength during its Class AA quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday night, the Lewiston Blue Devils crossed the Rams up.
Lewiston switched from a passive zone defense to an aggressive player-to-player set early in the fourth quarter, helping the Blue Devils rally for a 38-37 victory — the program’s first postseason win since 2005.
“I just told them that they had to keep fighting and they kept fighting,” said Lewiston coach Lynn Girouard, the state’s 1999 Miss Basketball when she played for the Blue Devils. “They had to want it, and they wanted it tonight.”
The victory advances No. 6 Lewiston (10-9) to a semifinal date Tuesday against No. 2 Edward Little of Auburn (14-4).
No. 3 Bangor ends its season at 10-9.
Tuesday’s other semifinal will match No. 4 Deering, which rallied past No. 5 Cheverus 50-43 in the first quarterfinal, against top-ranked Oxford Hills of South Paris, which like EL drew a first-round bye.
Bangor used its inside play to take control of its matchup against Lewiston in the third quarter, with junior forward Katie Butler working the offensive boards and the low post for eight of her team-high 12 points as the Rams extended a 22-21 halftime edge to 34-27 by the end of the period.
But after a timeout with 6:50 left in the game, Lewiston switched from its 2-1-2 zone to player-to-player defense — and Bangor managed just one field goal and three total points the rest of the way.
“I thought we got a little on our heels until we adjusted to the speed of what they were doing,” said Bangor coach Joe Johnson. “They put a lot of pressure on us and we just didn’t make some plays in the end, plays we’d been making all year.”
Sarah Bragg drove the lane against Lewiston’s new defense to give Bangor a 36-29 lead shortly after the timeout, but the Blue Devils’ perimeter aggression, aided by reserve guard Kasey Talarico, soon denied the Rams open passing lanes inside its defense.
Lewiston outscored Bangor 9-1 the rest of the way, with guard Kristina Blais hitting a 3-pointer to spark the late run and then scoring the game’s winning point from the free-throw line with 6.5 seconds left after gaining possession of an errant Bangor inbounding pass and being fouled after driving the length of the court.
“(Emily) Gilmore and Bragg are great ballhandlers, they’re patient and they care of the ball and don’t make a lot of turnovers,” said Girouard. “I just wanted to put some pressure on them and we did that. I think it stopped them from getting the ball easily into the post.”
Victoria Harris scored seven of her nine points after intermission for Lewiston while grabbing eight rebounds. Guard Skylar Gaudette added nine first-half points while Blais finished with eight points.
Butler also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for Bangor while guard Quinn Wood added 10 points, all in the first half.
In the first game, Deering (12-7) overcame a nightmarish first 10 minutes of play to surge past 10-9 Cheverus.
Junior guard Tisha Titherington led the Rams with 16 points, including an 11-of-13 effort from the free-throw line. Freshman Delaney Haines added 13 points for Deering while junior guard Abi Ramirez shook off foul trouble to score 10 points.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half and by 10 at intermission, Deering scored the first nine points of the second half to draw within 27-26 on a 3-pointer from the key by Cassidy Coyne with 4:51 left in the third period.
A 3-pointer and a layup by Haines drew the Rams even at 34-34 by the end of the quarter, and that run grew to nine unanswered points as Mandy Mastropasqua drove the baseline to give Deering the lead 45 seconds into the final period and Titherington followed with two free throws to make it 38-34 with 6:03 left.
Two big plays by Ramirez, a transition basket after a steal and a follow-up shot, extended the margin to 44-36 with two minutes remaining.
Cheverus’ player-to-player defense limited Deering to 1-of-16 shooting from the field in the first quarter, with Amanda Brett’s driving layup with 54.3 seconds left the Rams’ lone basket as the Stags built a 16-2 lead.
Cheverus’ guard Abby Cavallero made like Stephen Curry in the second quarter, burying four straight 3-pointers during a three-minute span as the Stags extended their lead to as much as 25-10.
But Deering extended its defense to the length of the 94-foot court and got some positive results late in the half, with Titherington converting a baseline drive and a 3-pointer to pull the Rams within 27-17 at the break.
Cavallero finished with six 3-pointers and a game-high 20 points while Emme Poulin scored 12.