BANGOR, Maine — Top-ranked Woodland looked all the part of an unbeaten team Thursday evening, using smothering fullcourt defensive pressure to defeat No. 5 Washburn 56-21 in an Eastern Maine Class D semifinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
The win advances the defending state champions (19-0) to Saturday morning’s regional title game against No. 3 Fort Fairfield, a 54-47 winner over No. 2 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook in the other semifinal.
Washburn ends its season with a 15-6 record.
Woodland’s defense induced 29 Washburn turnovers in the first half alone, as the taller Dragon guards and forwards were able to successfully deny the Beavers’ clean inbounds passes in the backcourt or subsequently get their hands on numerous passes and turn them into instant offense.
“They had a hard time getting the ball inbounds,” said Woodland coach Arnie Clark. “I didn’t think we did a good job against their dribble in the middle of the court, and against another team we might have been in trouble.
“But we were able to get a lot of turnovers.”
Woodland’s fullcourt defense featured 5-foot-7 sophomores Molly White and Kelsey Burtt, 5-foot-5 senior guard Julia Nicholas and 5-foot-8 junior Ashley Laking.
“Molly White is very quick and has long arms, she’s built for basketball,” said Clark. “And Ashley Laking and Julia Nicholas up top also do a good job. Everyone else steps up and denies, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Junior guard Ariel Knights paced the Dragons offensively with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Burtt scored 10 points and Nicholas had eight. Freshman forward Taylor Cochran grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Senior center Rachel Palmer had nine points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots and four steals for Washburn.
Both teams struggled offensively at the outset of the game, with Palmer scoring after grabbing an offensive rebound for the game’s first points with 4:07 left in the opening quarter.
The Beavers maintained a 5-2 lead on Meghan Saucier’s jumper with 2:30 left in the period, but Knights scored on a layup with 1:57 left — Woodland’s first field goal of the contest — to ignite a run of 14 unanswered points by the Dragons good for a 16-5 advantage on a follow-up shot by Burtt with 5:17 left in the first half.