The Monmouth Academy Mustangs raise the gold ball over their heads in victory Saturday night in Augusta after winning the Maine Class C Girls Basketball Championship game. Monmouth defeated Houlton High School 56-50. Credit: Troy R. Bennett

AUGUSTA, Maine — A record-setting performance from behind the 3-point arc powered the Monmouth Academy girls basketball team to a 56-50 victory over Houlton Saturday evening at the Augusta Civic Center.

Monmouth set a new tourney record for most 3-pointers in a state championship as the team drilled 8 of 15 shots from behind the arc on its way to a second straight Class C state title.

The Mustangs held off a late flurry by the Houlton Shires, who were appearing in their fourth consecutive state championship game.

Monmouth Academy coach Scott Wing said he was impressed by the fast start by his squad.

“We put on a pretty good shooting show,” he said. “We’ve done that a couple times this year, and picked a good time to do it in the state championship game.”

The Mustangs were more than “pretty good,” they were exceptional, from the floor. They made 21 of 39 shots en route to the victory. In comparison, Houlton was 19-for-46 from the floor.

Monmouth did the bulk of its damage deep, converting 8-of-15 from behind the 3-point arc. Houlton made just 2-of-7 3-pointers.

“Usually once we start we hitting a few (3-pointers) that is what really gets us rolling,” Wing said. “It’s one more point than a regular basket, but it’s a psychological thing.”

As good as Monmouth was, Houlton made things interesting late in the game, outscoring the Mustangs 10-5 in the final six minutes. Monmouth’s Tia Day iced the game by sinking a pair of foul shots with 5.7 seconds to play for the decisive 56-50 lead.

Houlton senior Kolleen Bouchard led all players with 35 points as she carried the Shires in the fourth quarter with 10 points and pulled her team within four points (54-50) with 25 seconds to play.

“There is no doubt in my mind, after playing against her (Bouchard), that she is the best player in the state,” Wing said. “What she showed in the fourth quarter with guts, both offensively and defensively, was very impressive.”

Monmouth received a 15-point effort from Abbey Allen, while Tia Day chipped in 14 and Hannah Anderson added eight.

Monmouth started with the hot hand as Day drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key just 30 seconds into the game. The Mustangs built a 6-0 lead as Destiny Clough hit the first of two foul shots and followed up with an eight-foot jumper.

“We were just ready to go,” Allen said. “We knew we had to come out and play hard. It’s always been a total team effort. It’s great having so many people that can score.”

The Shires were ice cold to start the contest, missing their first six shots, before Bouchard finally made a nifty turnaround jumper with 6:05 to play.

The Mustangs, however, were red-hot throughout the first frame making eight of their first 14 shots, including Day draining two more deep 3-pointers in front of the Shire bench, to give Monmouth a 22-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We got off to a really bad start, and they (Monmouth) shot the lights out,” Houlton coach Shawn Graham said.

He said the Shires tried every possible defensive combination to slow down Monmouth, but nothing seemed to work.

“We struggled to get stops defensively,” he added.

In the second quarter, the Shires did the bulk of their damage from the foul line, with Bouchard making all four of her free throws, while Teagan Ewings and Tessa Solomon each added a foul shot.

The Mustangs used a balanced attack in the second period with five different players getting into the scoring action.

Houlton senior Kristen Graham, who injured her right knee in last weekend’s regional championship game, had hoped to play in Saturday’s state game and warmed up with the team before the start. However, when it came to game time, her father, coach Graham, decided it was not in her best interests to be in the game.

Graham also missed last year’s state title run after injuring her left knee.

“She felt OK in warmups, but we felt the game was much too physical to risk it,” coach Graham said. “The refs let us play and we didn’t mind that. She (Kristen) said to me ‘Dad, I don’t know how well I can defend.’ And defending and rebounding was an issue for us. It wasn’t worth (risking) it with softball just around the corner.”