The Hermon High School girls basketball team held cold-shooting Old Town scoreless over the game’s last 4:10 and sank 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 45-30 victory in the Class B North schoolgirl championship game at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday afternoon.
The 19-2 Hawks trailed by as much as nine in the first half but rallied in the second half, outscoring Old Town 31-10.
Hermon defended its B North title and will play Oceanside of Rockland in Friday’s 7 p.m state final.
Old Town wound up 20-2.
The two local rivals split their regular season games.
Maddie Lebel had 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists for the winners. Elizabeth Wyman had 11 points and six rebounds and Faith Coombs had a pair of 3-pointers for six points along with two assists.
Sydney Gallop also had six points to go with two assists and Charlotte Caron had six points and two rebounds.
Madelyn Emerson had nine points for Old Town along with three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Sydney Loring had eight points and five rebounds to go with two assists. Makayla Emerson chipped in with eight points and six rebounds. Saige Evans contributed five rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists but the Big East Player of the Year was held to two points.
Old Town shot 4-for-25 from the floor in the second half after going 7-for-25 in the first half. The Coyotes were 5-for-8 beyond the 3-point arc in the first half but just 2-for-10 in the second half.
“We knew going in that we had to shut down their outside shooters but we didn’t do it in the first half,” said Hermon’s Coombs. “But we picked up our intensity in the second half. We added more pressure [on the ball] and we made sure the Emerson girls didn’t get open.”
The Hawks didn’t collapse inside as much in the second half so guards Gallop, Allie Cameron and Coombs could focus their attention on the 3-point shooters and it paid off.
“We couldn’t let their 3-point shooters get their feet set,” said Hermon coach Chris Cameron.
“When we got beat a little bit and doubled down [in the paint], they kicked the ball out and made us pay for it,” explained Cameron. “So we had to keep battling and fighting on defense and we went to our 1-3-1 three-quarter court trap to try to change the pace.
“We wanted to take them out of what they were doing well. They were firing on all cylinders. They were going inside-out and hitting shots. It took them out of their man-to-man offense and forced them to go to a zone offense,” he said.
Wyman said they did a better job “getting through screens and sticking with our men” in the second half.
“When you can’t make baskets, you can’t win,” said Old Town coach Heather Richards. “Our shots weren’t falling for us so our confidence dropped.”
Old Town had just three baskets inside the 3-point arc over the course of the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Loring to close out the first period gave the Coyotes a 13-6 lead.
The teams swapped points in the second quarter but Gallop’s long inbounds pass from the right sidelines to Wyman for a layup pulled the Hawks within six at the half.
Makayla Emerson’s seven points and six apiece from sister Madelyn and Loring paced the Coyotes in the first half.
Gallop had five points and Wyman and Caron had four apiece.
Hermon began its comeback in the final two minutes of the third quarter when Lebel nailed a three and Meg Tracy sank a free throw to reduce a 27-21 deficit to 27-25.
Cameron said Tracy, who saw limited minutes due to knee and ankle injuries, was a “difference-maker” when she was on the court.
Lebel fed Coombs for a three to open the fourth quarter and give Hermon its first lead of the game. Lebel then looped a pass over the defense to Caron for a basket to make it 30-27 with 7:19 left.
Lebel sank four free throws to expand the lead to 34-27 with 5:07 remaining. Lebel went 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half.
“I didn’t do well shooting free throws in the semifinals so I knew today would be my day,” Lebel said.
Madelyn Emerson hit a three off an Evans pass with 4:10 left to make it 34-30 but the Coyotes never scored again.
It was the only basket of the quarter for Old Town as the Coyotes went 1-for-13 from the floor over the final eight minutes.
Coombs nailed an open three with three minutes left off a Lebel pass following a Hermon timeout.
“It definitely wasn’t part of the play,” Coombs said. “The play didn’t work so I just cut and got open.”
“Faith is always our spark. When we need it, she knocks one down,” Lebel said.