OLD TOWN, Maine — It was a win four years in the making for Sarah Thibeault.
The Orono High School senior had never experienced the sweetness of knocking off archrival Old Town.
Thibeault and the Red Riots finally enjoyed the taste Monday night, taking the lead late in the second quarter after trailing most of the first half and gradually pulling away for a 50-39 schoolgirl basketball victory at MacKenzie Gymnasium.
“It’s so awesome, I’ve been waiting for this forever, I’ve been playing for four years and every year I wanted to beat Old Town. This was our game,” said Thibeault, one of three Red Riots in double figures with 11 points.
Orono, which came in ranked ninth unofficially in Class C Heal point ranks, improved its record to 11-6 and its chances to host a preliminary round game while Class B Old Town wrapped up its regular season at 10-8.
It didn’t appear to be Orono’s game early, as the Coyotes raced out to an 8-2 lead barely three minutes into the game.
Orono coach Jessica Libby quickly called timeout, settled her troops down, and the Riots responded, outscoring Old Town 8-5 over the rest of the opening period.
“I think we realized that teams are going to make runs on us throughout the game. It’s just a matter of how we can respond to that,” said Libby.
The Riots responded in the second quarter by attacking the basket and were rewarded with multiple trips to the free-throw line.
Orono finally took the lead on its final possession of the first half, as Thibeault drove down the lane and scored with 18 seconds to go, giving the Riots a 21-20 halftime lead.
Orono junior forward Allison Sherman took over in the second half, scoring 12 of her game-high 16 points after the break while grabbing 13 rebounds on the night.
Sherman and the Riots kept attacking Old Town in the second half, and the Coyotes started to foul and had four players playing with four fouls at one point.
“They got mentally unfocused and we just kept our heads in it,” said Thibeault. “We knew the prize at the end. We just wanted to win.”
Sherman added, “The team did really well; we beat them mentally [and] physically.”
With Old Town in foul trouble, the Riots shot well from the foul line (17-for-27) with Jade Keezer going 8-for-9 en route to 12 points.
“Jade Keezer was big for us today,” said Libby. “We’re going to have to continue that free-throw shooting into the playoffs.”
Leading by just one with 4:30 left in the third, the Riots scored the last seven points of the period to go into the fourth up eight, then they stretched that lead as high as 13 in the final eight minutes.
The Riots’ aggressive team defense limited Old Town to seven second-half field goals and the Coyotes got no closer than seven points in the fourth quarter.
Ashley Abbott’s 15 points led Old Town while Sarah Wilcox had 13 points and six steals.