BANGOR, Maine — Fort Fairfield and Southern Aroostook took precious little tournament experience with them to the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday.
That didn’t prevent the second-seeded Warriors and the No. 3 Tigers from overcoming pressure and gritty opponents during their respective Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinals.
Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook eked out a 49-48 victory over No. 10 Bangor Christian, while Fort Fairfield held off a late charge by No. 6 Katahdin of Stacyville to win 53-49.
The Warriors (17-2) and Tigers (19-1) meet in Thursday’s 2:05 p.m. semifinal.
In Saturday’s finale, Liz Goodall scored all of her team-high 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors shook off the feisty Patriots (10-10).
Goodall sank two free throws with 5.1 seconds left, giving Southern Aroostook the cushion it needed to overcome a 3-pointer at the buzzer by BC’s Emma Johnson.
“They’re young, they don’t have a lot of experience, so I was just so proud of them for keeping their composure and being able to play through it without anything drastic happening to change the outcome of the game,” said Southern Aroostook coach Jessica Porter.
SAHS might have put the game away earlier, but went 7-for-16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and shot only 50 percent for the night.
However, the Warriors’ relentless defensive pressure forced many of the Patriots’ 21 turnovers. And the winners grabbed 22 offensive rebounds.
“We come out and pressured all the time,” said Goodall, whose aggressive play also netted five rebounds in the fourth.
“When the game’s on the line, she tends to be the one that we get the ball in her hands, and I think she likes being in that position,” Porter said.
Goodall’s hoop off a spinning move in the lane gave SAHS a 45-40 lead with 1:59 left, but BC hung tough behind a baseline drive by Emma Johnson and Kelly Robinson’s 3-pointer.
Brittany Charette posted eight points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, while Lauren McGary chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds.
Robinson paced Bangor Christian with a game-best 16 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson finished with 15 points, and Meredith Bean added 10 points and nine rebounds.
In the first game, freshman Amanda Hotham controlled play underneath on her way to 19 points and 19 rebounds to spearhead Fort Fairfield.
“There were a lot of nerves, it was crazy,” Hotham said.
Courtney Churchill made three of her four foul shots and Kaitlyn McLaughlin added one, all in the final 30.6 seconds, to help the Tigers withstand a furious rally by undersized but scrappy Katahdin (11-8).
“None of these kids had played here before,” said Fort coach Larry Gardner.
“You never know how the kids are going to handle it and obviously we didn’t handle it very well, 7-0 before we could bat an eye,” Gardner said of his team’s slow start. “To their credit, they came back and didn’t let it bother them.”
The Tigers built a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter behind swarming man-to-man defense, but then went cold offensively. The Cougars responded behind Olivia McNally (15 points), Alisha Majkowski (12 points, nine rebounds) and JaLisa Moore (12 points, seven rebounds).
Melissa Duffy’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 49-46 with 45 seconds left, but the Tigers made four of eight free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Amber Forsman tallied nine points and eight rebounds and McLaughlin scored nine points for Fort Fairfield.