BANGOR, Maine — When a No. 2 seed faces a No. 15 seed in a tournament setting, one of the major challenges facing the favorite is not to assume that victory is a given even before the first shots are taken.
Second-seeded John Bapst of Bangor avoided that trap Tuesday evening, scoring the game’s first eight points and then cruising to a 59-34 victory over 15th-ranked Rockland in an Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball preliminary-round game at the Bangor Auditorium.
The win advances the Crusaders (17-2) to a regional quarterfinal against No. 7 Winslow at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Winslow (15-4) advanced Tuesday with a 39-35 victory over No. 10 Central of Corinth.
Rockland ended its season at 7-12.
Sam Gormley led John Bapst with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Morgan Chasse added 14 points. Hillary Keith added six rebounds and Samantha Macquillan grabbed five as the Crusaders outrebounded Rockland 34-24.
Hannah Sirois paced Rockland with nine points, while Baillie Boggs grabbed seven rebounds.
John Bapst came out at the start of the game looking to get the ball inside to the 6-foot-1 Gormley, who scored two quick baskets to spark the Crusaders’ early run and force a Rockland timeout less than three minutes into the contest.
“That was our game plan right from the beginning, to establish the inside game,” said John Bapst coach Mike Webb. “We didn’t think they had a presence for Gormley, and establishing that inside game gets us going because she’s hard to defend and she usually picks up a couple of fouls on the defense. Sometimes it changes people’s game plans if we can get her the ball early.”
Bapst soon complemented that inside offense with the fast break, as Gormley and Macquillan controlled the backboards and Chasse cashed in at the other end, scoring in transition on back-to-back possessions to help the Crusaders take a 16-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“Chasse’s just an incredible athlete, and we want to run,” said Webb. “Everyone talks about our slowdown and tempo, but I think we put a few points on the board tonight. We like to get out and go, we like to get out and run with anybody, but when teams want to zone and don’t want to run with us, that’s when we slow it down.
“With our size, Gormley and Macquillan can rebound and they see the floor well so we can get out and run, but it’s all with defense.”
Rockland did close within 18-12 on a basket by Corey Picard with 2:11 left in the second quarter, but John Bapst then closed out the half with a 9-2 run, including two inside baskets by Gormley, a long jumper by Chasse and a drive and a free throw by Keith, to stretch the lead back to 27-14 at intermission.
“We wanted to come out and make them shoot the 3, but we had a ton of sickness and we just couldn’t get the things done that we wanted to,” said Rockland coach Ray Felt. “We had some good looks offensively, but we missed some early shots and got down and then it was an uphill battle after that.”
John Bapst’s defense limited Rockland to just 30 percent (7 of 23) shooting from the field in the opening half.
“I was proud of our intensity, and I was proud of our defense in the first half,” said Webb. “To hold them to 14 points set the tone. We’ve played pretty good defense all year, but I was proud of the girls that they didn’t take a No. 15 team lightly.”