AUGUSTA, Maine — A year ago the Hampden Academy girls basketball team had its collective heart broken at tournament time, a last-second blocked shot leaving the eighth-seeded Broncos one point short of a stunning quarterfinal upset.
Hampden’s Class A North quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday evening had a dramatically different final act, as Courtney Dunton’s runner from the top of the key with one second left lifted coach Tim Scott’s club to a 42-40 victory over Nokomis of Newport.
The win advances the fifth-seeded Broncos (11-8) to a semifinal date Wednesday against top-ranked and defending state champion Lawrence of Fairfield, which improved to 19-0 by defeating No. 9 Skowhegan 63-33 in the late game.
Fourth-ranked Nokomis, which had split two regular-season meetings with Hampden, ended its season at 13-6.
Nokomis junior guard Olivia Brown made two free throws around a Hampden timeout with 3.6 seconds left to forge a 40-40 tie — leaving the Broncos just enough time to try out a play Scott had installed just a day earlier.
“We worked on that a little bit just in case,” said Scott, “and I thought I had one more timeout to get them set, but they just ran it and we had a good pass, a good catch and good pass and then Courtney made that shot. It’s unbelievable.”
That game-winning play began with Hampden inbounding the ball against Nokomis’ defensive pressure and getting it to 6-foot-3 freshman center Bailey Donovan at midcourt.
Nokomis came up empty on a steal attempt, then Donovan spotted Dunton racing past her. The short lead pass led Dunton perfectly, and when she reached the top of the key she let fly, with the ball going through the net with a second left and Nokomis out of timeouts as the buzzer sounded.
“I knew there was three seconds left so I could take a couple of dribbles and then shoot,” said Dunton. “I knew I wanted to get off a shot and not just a prayer.”
Donovan came off the bench to lead Hampden offensively with 12 points along with six rebounds. Dunton, one of just two seniors on the Broncos’ roster, finished with 11 points while sophomore guard Marissa Gilpin scored eight points, including a drive to the basket that gave Hampden a 40-38 lead with 40 seconds left.
Brown led Nokomis — a team with just one senior — with a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds, while Austin Taylor scored eight points. Freshman forward Gabrielle Lord added a strong all-around game for coach Michelle Paradis’ club with five points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
Donovan had 10 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots as Hampden took a 21-20 lead into intermission.
Nokomis jumped out to a 10-5 lead, using full-court defensive pressure to force turnovers that led to six early points by Brown.
The lead was 12-10 at the end of the period before Donovan began dominating the inside play at both ends against a Nokomis squad that struggled to contest her height.
Donovan scored eight straight Hampden points after catching lobs in the low post, and Dunton followed with a 3-pointer as the Broncos extended their lead to 21-14 with 3:06 left until halftime.
When Donovan then went to the bench Nokomis capitalized, scoring the final six points of the half including a follow-up shot by Brown and a 3-pointer by Cheslea Crockett to make it a one-point game.