BANGOR, Maine — It won’t look pretty on the stat sheet, but wins are the only statistic that really sticks out in tournament play.
Even though the Fort Fairfield girls basketball team struggled from the field Thursday night, the second-ranked Tigers went 27-for-37 from the foul line – with sophomore Amanda Hotham going 14-19 as coach Larry Gardner’s club earned a tough 51-42 win over No. 3 Southern Aroostook in a Class D semifinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
The 19-1 Tigers will play either Central Aroostook of Mars Hill or Bangor Christian in Saturday’s 9:05 a.m. regional final while the Warriors from Dyer Brook finish 16-3.
Even though the Tigers committed 25 turnovers thanks to Southern Aroostook’s full-court trap, the aggressive Warriors got in some foul trouble with two starters – Evangeline and Liz Goodall – fouling out.
“We watched them before our game in the quarterfinals and they were pretty aggressive,” said Hotham, who led all scorers with 27 points while gathering 17 rebounds.
Fort Fairfield built a seven-point lead early in the fourth on Brooke Beaulieu’s back-door layup, but the Warriors lived up to their nickname, eventually closing within 36-35 on a free throw by Rochelle Nadeau with 4:22 left.
But Southern Aroostook had trouble establishing an offensive rhythm against the Tigers’ triangle-and-two defense, while its foul trouble proved fatal.
“We kept getting steals in the press, and that was one thing we needed to do a good job on and we did it, the problem was foul trouble and missed free throws, that really came back and hurt us,” Warriors coach Cliff Urquhart said.
Southern Aroostook also struggled shooting, going 17-for-69 as a unit.
Hotham hit five foul shots in a span of a minute to restore the Tigers to an eight-point lead with 2:45 left, and Southern Aroostook got no closer than five.
“Hotham played as tough as Hotham could play and she was really the player of the game in my opinion,” said Urquhart. “We had no answer for her.”
Sophomore forward Danielle Tracy was also clutch from the charity stripe for the Tigers, hitting five free throws in the final period while scoring 10 points on the night.
“We made them when it came down to crunch time,” Gardner said.
Fort Fairfield was also able to overcome its mistakes as the game wore on.
“We got rattled by it a little bit and we just didn’t reverse the ball like we were capable of doing,” said Gardner. “But it’s tournament basketball, these kids are 14-15 years old, they’re going to make mistakes.”
The Tigers also had to play much of the stretch portion of the game without senior point guard Courtney Churchill, who hit her head on the floor going for a loose ball.
Beaulieu also fueled Fort Fairfield’s rebounding efforts with nine boards.
Liz Goodall’s 10 points led the Warriors while Shelby Hartin blocked three shots and Lauren McGary scored eight points off the bench.