BANGOR, Maine — The Southern Aroostook girls basketball team was understandably nervous on Monday afternoon.
Coach Cliff Urquhart’s Warriors arrived at the Cross Insurance Center with the youngest team in tournament history: Four freshmen and four eighth-graders. A school can use eighth-graders on its team if the school has 60 or fewer students in one gender.
Top-seeded Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook overcame its jitters as eighth-grader Sydney Brewer scored nine points in overtime to help the Warriors edge No. 8 Wisdom of St. Agatha 38-32 in a Class D North quarterfinal.
“I was really nervous,” said Brewer, who posted 15 points and nine rebounds. “I know all of us talked about it all day and how nervous we were.”
Southern Aroostook (14-5) moves into the semifinal against No. 4 Central Aroostook at 3:35 p.m. Thursday.
“We just kept saying every timeout, ‘Calm down, relax,’” said Urquhart, who assured the players that “it’s just like playing back home.”
Senior Rhylee Wright, who is 6-foot-1, scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to help Wisdom (9-11) erase a nine-point deficit and force overtime. The Pioneers’ 1-3-1 zone held Southern Aroostook without a field goal for almost 12 minutes to facilitate the comeback.
“That’s been kind of the staple of the whole year is we’ve held teams to 20s, 30s, and [we] really did a good job defensively,” said Wisdom coach Scott Pelletier.
In overtime, it was all Warriors. Brewer was the catalyst as she scored on an offensive rebound and hit a foul shot that gave them a 31-30 lead.
“She certainly stepped up,” Urquhart said. “She was strong with the ball, kept the ball high, didn’t bring it down.”
Southern Aroostook converted another of the Pioneers’ 24 turnovers on a close-range basket by Kassidy Mathers (nine points, nine rebounds), before Alyssa Banville scored Wisdom’s only hoop of overtime from the baseline.
However, Mathers made a free throw, then fed Brewer inside for a basket that made it 36-32 with 23 seconds left. Makaelyn Porter made a steal that sealed it.
“The momentum after getting a few baskets, we kind of just forgot about the nerves and kept going,” Brewer said.
Katelyn Slauenwhite hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points for the winners, and Kylie Vining had seven rebounds.
Wright pulled down 24 rebounds for Wisdom, which outrebounded the Warriors 51-38.
“We needed to do a little bit better job boxing her out, but I felt like in the half-court, our bigs did their job at least staying in front and not letting her get layups,” Urquhart said.
Tireless sophomore guard Bailey Bellefleur contributed 10 points and four rebounds, and Melanie Bellefleur and Alyssa Banville had eight rebounds each.