BANGOR, Maine — There isn’t any hidden secret to the success of the Winslow Black Raiders. They play tenacious player-to-player defense.
Sixth-seeded Winslow forced No. 2 John Bapst out of its comfort zone on Wednesday afternoon, rushing the Crusaders into 17 percent shooting to lay the foundation for a 39-26 Class B girls basketball semifinal victory at the Cross Insurance Center.
Coach Lindsey Withee’s Black Raiders (16-5), move on to Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. regional championship game against the winner of Wednesday’s Hermon-Presque Isle contest.
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Winslow generated only 11 John Bapst turnovers, but limited open outside shots, contest drives into the lane and dominated the rebounding (47-26).
“We just knew that we couldn’t foul them and put them on the free-throw line,” Withee said. “We tried really pressuring enough to respect them, pressuring enough that they were bothered by it.”
Coach Chris Woodside’s Crusaders (15-5) could not find the range offensively. He attributed their 9-for-52 shooting in great part to Winslow’s defense.
“I think it’s hard to replicate the intensity that they play with defensively,” Woodside said.
“Because of their speed, they forced us to go faster, so even though we were getting the shots we wanted, we were doing it at a faster speed than we were normally comfortable with.”
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The Black Raiders’ defensive efforts helped them overcome 26 turnovers, several of which came against John Bapst’s trapping, extended 2-3 zone.
“I wanted to try something so they couldn’t get comfortable from 3-[point range] because they’re such a good 3-point shooting team,” Woodside said.
Senior Haley Ward led Winslow. She went 7-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-7 at the foul line to score a game-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“They had good defense, we had to score,” Ward said. “Any given night, any one of us can come out and score and I think tonight it had to be me.”
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Senior Grace Philippon led John Bapst with 10 points and four rebounds and Tia Zephir added five points and five boards. Dynamic guard Crystal Bell finished with four points.
John Bapst opened the game with six unanswered points, eliciting a Winslow timeout. The Black Raiders responded by outscoring the Crusaders 22-4 until halftime while building a 22-10 lead.
Ward spearheaded an 11-0 second-quarter burst that put Winslow in charge. She opened the run with two free throws, then scored from underneath off a Weslee Littlefield feed. Brodhi Littlefield buried a 3, then a close-range bucket by Maeghan Bernard and Ward’s driving layup made it 22-10.
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