BREWER, Maine — With a roster dotted with five sophomores and six freshmen, and coming off a 1-17 2007-08 season, the Leavitt girls basketball team thought just reaching the preliminary round in Eastern Maine Class A would be a logical goal.
The Hornets snuck in with the 11th and final seed in Class A, so cross that off the checklist.
Now, an even bigger dream has been checked off: A trip to the Augusta Civic Center.
Led by sophomore guard Courtney Anderson’s game-high 25 points and a zone defense which made things difficult for Brewer, the Hornets’ dream is now a reality thanks to a 59-50 victory over the sixth-ranked Witches on Tuesday night.
Hannah Whitaker, one of just two seniors on fifth-year coach Tammy Anderson’s roster, has had this on her mind for about six months.
“It’s amazing, I can’t even describe it,” said Whitaker. “We started practicing for our summer league just saying we wanted to make the playoffs. When we made it into the playoffs, we decided we wanted to make it to the Civic Center.”
Leavitt (10-9) faces third-ranked Messalonskee of Oakland in a 3 p.m. quarterfinal Friday while Brewer finished a strong season 10-9.
The Hornets advance to the quarterfinal round for the first time since 1999, when they were in Class B.
Trailing 12-9 after the first quarter, the Hornets started to stretch things out in the second, scoring the first nine points of the quarter — including seven from Anderson — which gave Leavitt a six-point cushion en route to taking a seven-point halftime lead.
Leavitt’s zone clamped down even more in the third, collapsing on the post and limiting the Witches to the perimeter.
“We heard a lot about their post play and we thought it was a good idea to stay in that zone. We had a person at the top of the key and two down low so it was just a good plan from the get-go,” said Courtney Anderson, a sophomore guard.
In fact, Brewer’s only two baskets in the third quarter — during which Leavitt went on a 12-6 run to stretch its lead to 13 — were from behind the arc.
“We said we just got to make sure we played our best defense ever if we want to make it to the next level,” Tammy Anderson said.
The Hornets also stressed rebounding, and they did a sound job in that department, holding a 41-28 edge on the backboards.
“I think we stressed boards a lot and just making sure we took care of the basketball,” said Tammy Anderson.
A basket down low from Abbey Randall gave Leavitt its biggest lead of the night at 50-35 with 3:53 to play, but the Witches would not go quietly.
Holly Nickerson’s 3 with 57 seconds to play brought Brewer within six, and they had a chance to draw closer after a Leah Jackson steal on the ensuing Hornet possession, but Nickerson’s next 3-point attempt was off the mark and Leavitt salted it away from the foul line.
Randall, who scored 13 points, was particularly clutch from the line down the stretch, going 6-for-6 in the game’s final 1:28.
“Abbey’s always been kind of our rock. She keeps calm in tight situations,” said Tammy Anderson.
Adrianna Newton was the other Hornet to crack double figures with 16 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
Anderson hauled down nine boards — including four on the offensive end — while Whitaker had eight.
Leah Jackson had 16 points and 16 rebounds and Amy Adams 16 points for Brewer.