BANGOR, Maine — While Machias senior Tate Dolley certainly stole the show at times Monday afternoon, it was a Central Aroostook freshman that played the role of hero.
Ashlee Harris hit a pair of free throws with 6.2 seconds left as the fourth-ranked Panthers from Mars Hill held on for a thrilling 45-44 Class D North girls basketball quarterfinal win over the fifth-ranked Bulldogs at the Cross Insurance Center.
Central Aroostook (13-6) will face face Aroostook County rival Southern Aroostook at 3:35 p.m. Thursday in a semifinal at the CIC.
The Panthers led by as many as 10 in the second quarter before the 6-foot Dolley, who finished with 33 points and set a Class D record for free throws in a single game with 16, began to assert herself against a smaller Central Aroostook club.
“We don’t have a lot of size and they definitely do, so boxing out was going to be a big factor tonight,” Central Aroostook coach Cody Tompkins said.
Dolley would score 15 of her points in the third quarter to help coach Brad Prout’s Bulldogs turn a five-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead entering the final eight minutes.
Central Aroostook would score the first five points of the quarter to retake the lead, and in spite of being held to just one field goal in the final frame, the Panthers went 9 of 12 from the foul line while forcing six Bulldog turnovers.
With Machias down 43-41 after Harris, who led Central Aroostook with 16 points, hit her game-winning foul shots with 21.5 left, the Bulldogs had a chance to equalize, but a Makayla Prout layup missed the mark, and Dolley fouled out on the subsequent rebound.
Central Aroostook’s athleticism was key in forcing 23 Bulldog turnovers and holding Dolley’s teammates in check. Only four other Bulldogs managed a point during the contest.
“Tate Dolley is such a threat, she’s so good,” Tompkins said. “Credit the Machias team, they’re a great team, we were able to push the tempo early.”
Coach Prout said the Bulldogs were effective in running their offense through Dolley in the high post, but failed to take care of the ball when it mattered most.
“We couldn’t take care of the ball when we needed to,” he said.