HAMPDEN, Maine — Quality teams always find ways to win in adverse situations.
The Hampden Academy girls basketball team made only one field goal in the fourth quarter of Friday’s mutual Class A opener against Bangor, but the Broncos managed to overcome that with a 12-for-20 effort from the free-throw line.
That included a 4-for-5 output from junior guard Michaela Stephenson, and her Broncos outlasted Bangor 42-36 at Hampden Academy.
“We’ve been working on our free throws a lot, since we knew they’re free shots and they can really make or break games,” said Stephenson.
They certainly paved the way for coach Chad Bradbury’s club, which raced out to a 24-15 halftime lead only to see the Rams embark on a 16-4 run in the third quarter to take a 31-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
But Bangor had expended most of its energy to rally, and the Broncos found themselves on the line a lot while holding the Rams to one field goal and five fourth-quarter points.
“I was proud of their effort in the second half, but I thought we ran out of gas,” Bangor coach Tom Tennett said. “Once we got the lead, I think the fatigue factor became a role and we started making some fouls that we don’t want to make.”
Katelyn DeRaps sunk a pair of free throws to give Hampden the lead for good with 5:08 to play. Julia Snyder, who led the Broncos with 12 points and seven rebounds, converted an offensive putback off her own miss the next trip down the court to jumpstart a game-ending 10-3 run.
That was mainly thanks to Hampden’s frontcourt players attacking the rim against Bangor’s zone defense, and at one point in the fourth quarter, the Rams had four players with four fouls.
“If we can get to the line, and make free throws, that’s a big part of our offense,” Bradbury said.
The Broncos broke out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead as their full-court pressure forced the Rams into multiple turnovers. Bangor was just 5-for-27 from the floor in the first half while committing 12 turnovers.
But the Rams came out aggressively on the offensive end after halftime, and Hillary Throckmorton’s 3-pointer from the right wing gave Tennett’s club its first lead of the game with 2:20 left in the third.
“I think we made a point to come out strong, but Bangor just came out and executed,” Stephenson said. “But we came back and got it done.”
The Broncos benefited from offensive balance, as DeRaps scored 10 points in her first game in Hampden colors while Stephenson totaled nine and Ashley Danforth six.
Snyder was also dynamite on the offensive glass with four offensive boards while she contributed four fourth-quarter points.
“The whole team contributed and I guess we were looking for who was hot,” said Snyder.
Turns out it was her, Stephenson and DeRaps, who were a combined 12-for-16 shooting free throws.
Hampden also did a fairly effective job slowing Bangor sophomore Kate Treadwell in the paint, holding her to seven points on 2-of-8 shooting.
“We doubled her in the post so she wouldn’t get any layups. It worked well,” Snyder said.
The Rams finished with 26 turnovers, a number Tennett would prefer to be much lower as the season progresses.
“We can’t turn the ball over, we started the game turning the ball over, we have to start protecting the ball,” he said.
Throckmorton led the Rams with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Treadwell grabbed six boards.