CORINTH, Maine — Tournament time may be two weeks away, but Thursday’s Class C girls showdown between archrivals Foxcroft Academy and Central had the appeal of a late-February Bangor Auditorium matchup.
Things weren’t exactly going the Ponies’ way early, as senior center Vanessa Lougee picked up three first-quarter fouls, leaving coach Rachel Bousquet’s club with a smaller lineup against 6-foot-4 Red Devils’ center Bekah Campbell.
But Foxcroft weathered the storm and a ruckus Central crowd, outscoring the Red Devils 30-18 in the second half and 18-7 in the fourth quarter to earn a 51-37 victory in front of a standing-room only crowd at Central High’s cozy gym.
Foxcroft avenged a 46-34 setback to the Red Devils in Dover-Foxcroft on Jan. 12, and improved to 12-3 while the Red Devils are now 13-2.
The teams came in ranked 1-2 in Eastern Maine Class C, and the Ponies’ victory may have secured the top seed with three games left to play.
Even though Lougee sat from the 2:15 mark of the first quarter until halftime, her teammates rose up in her absence, with Sabrina Sharrow and Bekah Flanders combining for 15 of Foxcroft’s 21 first-half points as they went into the half up 21-19.
“I was really proud of them for stepping up, that was one of the first times I’ve ever had to come out and sit that long,” said Lougee, who scored seven of her nine points in the second half.
The teams went back-and-fourth in the third quarter, but Foxcroft never trailed the rest of the game after Meghan Keane’s baseline pullup midway through the period, which ended with FA leading 33-30.
After a followup basket by the Devils’ Jocelyn Portmann made it 35-34, Sharrow’s 3-pointer from the right wing, followed by a Courtney Withee perimeter bucket at the top of the key jumpstarted a 14-0 fourth-quarter run which stretched FA’s lead to 15.
The key for the Ponies was staying focused, especially without Lougee.
“We usually lose our heads, but we really kept it composed this game, which was good for us,” said Flanders, who led all scorers with 16 points.
In fact, it was Foxcroft’s defense which forced the normally high-octane Red Devils into 20 turnovers. The Ponies double-teamed Campbell effectively in the post, making for difficult entry passes while holding Hannah Pray to 4-of-13 shooting from the floor.
“We just knew that that was something that was obviously the key component to their game,” said Bousquet.
There are a few things coach Diane Rollins’ club can take away from this setback.
“You can learn from every game whether you win or lose,” Rollins said. “We’ve got to learn to take care of the ball, make better decisions on reversals.”
Rollins added that her team didn’t do a good job of attacking the basket in the first half while Lougee was on the bench.
The Ponies were just the opposite offensively, placing three scorers in double figures — Keane finished with 11 points and Sharrow 10 — while Sharrow also had three steals.
“It was probably the best team win our team’s ever had,” Lougee said. “Our guards really stepped up.”
If there’s one thing Foxcroft proved, its that the Ponies will be one of the teams to beat when the tournament commences on Feb. 12, and there’s a chance these two teams could meet in Bangor.
“They just came out composed and they really, really wanted it,” Bousquet said. “I can’t be more proud of them. I’m so proud to be their coach right now.”
Campbell posted 14 points and 12 rebounds for Central while Pray had 13 points.