BANGOR, Maine — Sometimes, a team’s best offense is its defense as the Hampden Academy girls basketball team showed Thursday night.
Even though the Broncos were bothered somewhat by Bangor’s zone pressure, they used their strong defense to thwart Bangor’s attack and effective press-breaking skills to generate some transition baskets in earning a 54-42 win over the hard-working Rams at Red Barry Gym.
Hampden, which defeated Bangor 42-36 to open the season, improves to 5-4 and keeps hold of the eighth and final playoff spot in Eastern Class A while Bangor, which came in ranked ninth, slips to 4-5.
The Broncos struggled to adapt to Bangor’s press in the early going, but Kate Parsons, Katelyn DeRaps and Julia Snyder helped coach Chad Bradbury’s club build a 17-8 first-quarter lead that peaked at 15 in the first half.
“It took a lot of adjustments and just kind of getting to open areas and looking for the right pass,” said Hampden junior point guard Michaela Stephenson. “We just kind of stepped up as a team and got it done.”
This was a foul-plagued game, as the teams where whistled for 52 fouls while 61 free throws were attempted between the clubs.
But even though the Broncos found themselves in foul trouble, they received contributions from multiple sources in earning the victory.
“We’re deep, we’ve got kids that can play, and everybody can give us a little something,” Bradbury said.
For example: DeRaps led Hampden with 14 points while Stephenson was 5-for-6 from the foul line, had six steals and scored 11 points. Meanwhile, Snyder and Whitney Moore clamped down on Bangor junior Hillary Throckmorton, limiting her open looks at the hoop.
“Everyone can come in and contribute,” said DeRaps.
The Broncos led by as many as 16 in the second half and Bangor closed to within 10 at one point, but DeRaps’ breakaway layup early in the fourth put Hampden back up by double digits for the remainder of the game.
“We work on our pressbreaker every practice and we know that basically every team will press us so it’s one of the big things we need to be good at,” said DeRaps.
Coach Tom Tennett’s Rams never got into a rhythm offensively, and many of Bangor’s baskets came on follow-up plays while the Rams also struggled at the foul line.
“We too many turnovers in the first half, I think we missed too many free throws in key situations,” said Tennett.
With pivotal Heal points at stake for both clubs, this game had the intensity and atmosphere of a postseason game, and the Broncos’ win may further enhance their chances of playing in Augusta come February.
“We definitely kept in the back of our minds that they were just one place behind us and we were holding onto that last playoff spot,” said Stephenson. “We have to beat the teams below us if we want to maintain that spot.”
Parsons came off the bench to contribute nine points for Hampden while Snyder finished with six.
Stephanie Comstock paced Bangor with 11 points while Melanie Jackson had 10 and Kate Treadwell nine.