BANGOR, Maine — For three quarters on Wednesday night, Foxcroft Academy and Presque Isle were locked up in a game dominated by defense, subpar shooting and turnovers.
With the outcome riding on the line, it was the Ponies who finally put things together in the fourth quarter.
Abigail Simpson and Ali Bourget each scored four points as No. 3 Foxcroft Academy outscored No. 2 Presque Isle 16-6 in the final eight minutes while posting a 37-25 Class B North girls basketball semifinal victory at the Cross Insurance Center.
“I didn’t think we were putting forth the effort that we should have been,” Smith said of his team’s sluggish first half.
“I told them we needed to play another 16 minutes of basketball. It was up to them whether it was going to be the last 16 minutes (of the season) or not,” he added.
Coach Blake Smith’s Ponies (16-4) advance to play the winner of Wednesday night’s Houlton-Hermon game in Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. regional championship game.
Coach Jeff Hudson’s Wildcats wound up 15-5.
Foxcroft Academy took advantage of its persistent player-to-player defense and its offensive balance and cohesiveness in the fourth quarter. The Ponies limited the Wildcats to 2-for-9 shooting at the defensive end while Simpson grabbed five of her game-high nine rebounds in the period to limit PI’s second chances.
Foxcroft led 23-21 when it finally put together the decisive run. Simpson scored on a rebound, then freshman Olivia Wesley knocked down a pivotal 3-pointer to give the Ponies a seven-point advantage with 5:32 remaining.
PI got back within five as it sandwiched a Skylar Vogel close-range hoop and two Emily Wheaton free throws around a cutting basket by FA’s Grace Bickford, but the Ponies patiently slowed the game down and wound up scoring the last seven points to pull away.
“When we came in at halftime, coach was talking about rebounding,” Simpson said. “He stressed to us that we needed to start rebounding more.”
Simpson finished with a team-high eight points, while Bickford posted seven points and five rebounds and Bourget contributed six points. Mackenzie Beaudry also made her presence felt, providing six points and six rebounds.
“In a game like that, you’ve got to make the plays in the fourth quarter and they made more plays than we did,” said Hudson.
Presque Isle was hampered by a significant ankle injury to junior point guard Wheaton. The Wildcats’ shifty playmaker limped noticeably and was unable to show off the dynamic offensive skills that had helped spark PI into the semifinals.
“She worked really hard to get ready,” Hudson said of Wheaton, praising the trainer for helping her get on the court after Tuesday’s injury.
“I didn’t realize until this game how much space she creates on the pull-up jumpers. They did a good job on her (defensively), too,” he added.
Wheaton scored six of her team-high eight points from the foul line and Vogel finished with six points and seven rebounds to lead PI.