AUGUSTA, Maine — The Hampden Academy girls basketball team used 3-point shooting and strong bench play to hang even with Brunswick through three quarters of their Eastern Maine Class A semifinal Wednesday afternoon.
But physical strength and full-court defensive pressure paid off for the Dragons over the game’s final eight minutes as third-ranked Brunswick fought off the seventh-ranked Broncos 58-51 at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Even when the press doesn’t get steals, we want to use it wear teams down,” said first-year Brunswick head coach Sam Farrell. “We play at this tempo all the time, so I have kids that don’t need to come out and you could see them gasping a little and making a couple of turnovers that they normally wouldn’t make.”
The win advances Brunswick (16-4) to Friday’s regional final against top-seeded Skowhegan, which remained unbeaten at 20-0 by defeating Morse of Bath in the other semifinal 57-43.
Hampden, which will not graduate a senior from this year’s team, ends its season at 13-7.
Hampden and Brunswick were tied at 37-37 entering the fourth quarter, but Brunswick scored the first seven points of the final period to take control.
Alexa Dearborn hit a 3-pointer, freshman center Lydia Caputi fed frontcourt mate Emily Bryant for an inside basket and Hilary Champagne scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to give Brunswick a 44-37 lead.
The Dragons built that lead to as much as 10 points, but Hampden rallied to within 51-47 on a 3-pointer by Katelyn DeRaps with about a minute remaining.
But Caputi answered with a press-breaking layup, and Brunswick went on to build its lead back to 58-48 in the final minute as Caputi made two free throws, Bryant made one and Jacquelyn Kelly added a layup.
“We just made some big plays down the stretch,” said Farrell. “A senior [Dearborn] makes a big 3, another senior in Jacquie Kelly gets a couple of steals and a freshman [Caputi] doesn’t miss from the line,” said Brunswick coach Sam Farrell. “And they missed some shots that they weren’t missing earlier.”
Caputi finished with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds, while Kelly had 12 points and six steals and Champagne scored 10 points.
Michaela Stephenson led Hampden with 11 points, while Helene Sherburne added nine points and Kate Parsons eight.
“They’re strong,” said Hampden coach Chad Bradbury of Brunswick. “They forced us to do things hurriedly, we had 24 turnovers and we can’t afford 15. Some of them were forced, and some of them were because we were so worried about the contact.”
Brunswick never trailed against a Hampden team that entered the contest riding a seven-game winning streak, but the Dragons struggled to put the Broncos away during a game whose rhythm was stymied by 43 fouls.
“Our offensive flow was just not there,” said Bradbury. “We were worried about the contact, worried about the physicalness, so we never got into passing and screening and penetrating and we never got the shots we normally get.”
Yet for three quarters, every time Brunswick threatened to take charge Hampden had a response.
During the second quarter that response came from off the bench, as Sherburne came on to shoot 3 of 3 from 3-point range and Ashley Danforth had four points and three steals to keep the Broncos within 23-20 at intermission.
Hampden finally tied the game at 29-29 midway through the third quarter when Parsons hit a 3-pointer and then drove the lane for a layup.
That was the first of three ties over the next three minutes, the final one coming when Courtney Doyon scored from the lane for the final points of the period.
Hampden finished with an 8-for-19 effort on 3-pointers, but Brunswick offset that proficiency by making 21 of 35 free throws compared to just 3 of 8 for the Broncos.
“We knew they weren’t going to beat us inside, they were going to have to beat us from far, far away,” said Farrell. “DeRaps hit one late with a girl in her face, and [Sherburne] hit three early. We weren’t ready for that. They’re a good team.”