BANGOR, Maine — Facing a hungry John Bapst team on the same floor they’ll be playing on once the Eastern Maine Class C tournament tips off on Feb. 15, the Central girls basketball team got a little taste of the postseason Friday night.
Fortunately for the Red Devils of Corinth, Hannah Pray thrives in such an environment.
The dynamic junior guard canned a running jumper at the buzzer from the left wing — lefthanded with a Crusader defender in her face — as coach Diane Rollins’ club capped its regular season with a dramatic, come-from-behind 55-53 overtime victory at the Bangor Auditorium.
Central will take a 16-2 record and the No. 2 seed in Class C into postseason play while Bapst, which needed a win to solidify the final slot in Class B, wraps up 9-9.
The Crusaders entered play holding the 10th spot in Eastern B, and their loss coupled with Mattanawcook Academy’s win over Lee Academy enabled the Lynx of Lincoln to claim the final preliminary slot.
Central trailed 53-51 late in overtime, and tied it at 53 on Max McHugh’s runner from the high block with 27 seconds left.
After Bapst’s Taylor Edgecomb misfired from in close, Central called timeout with 6.1 seconds left, but had to go the length of the court.
Pray took the inbounds pass, dribbled around two defenders and fired up a lefthanded shot that found nothing but nylon.
The play was designed to go inside to 6-foot-4 center Bekah Campbell, but she was well guarded in the paint, so Pray did her best Michael Jordan imitation.
“We wanted it to go in for a layup,” said Pray, who finished with 19 points. “I saw Bekah, but the girl was right on her, so I figured I’d just go for it.”
It wasn’t looking good for Central early, as the Devils trailed 16-4 after one quarter, thanks to the Crusaders’ disciplined half-court offense and eight points from Tori Mason.
But the Devils responded with a 16-8 second-quarter run to close within four by halftime to establish some momentum.
“When we came out in the second half, I wanted them up, I wanted them denying and playing better defense, and I think that’s what turned it around,” said Rollins.
Central also used its advantage inside with Campbell, who scored 15 of her game-high 20 points after halftime.
“They really didn’t have much to match up with her,” said Pray. “We needed to do what’s been working for us, get it to Bekah or drive and hopefully get the foul.”
Campbell also had eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Coach Mike Webb’s Crusaders certainly gave all they had in trying to nail down a postseason berth.
“They fought all night long. They fought and fought and fought,” Webb said. “A shot like that at the buzzer … went in with her left hand on the fly. Nothing but net.”
The teams went back-and-fourth throughout the second half, with the biggest lead for either club being a 43-39 Central advantage with 5:20 to go.
Bapst responded with solid defense, holding Central without a field goal over the final 2:46 of regulation. Trailing 47-45 with 27 seconds left, Edgecomb was fouled on a drive to the hoop and sank both her free throws to tie it.
After a Devils turnover, Kirsty Moriarty’s game-winning 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim.
Jordan Myerowitz led John Bapst with 18 points while Edgecomb had 11 and Mason 10.