BANGOR, Maine — Sometimes, the role of underdog makes that team even more dangerous, and the Calais girls have proven that so far in the Eastern Maine Class C tournament.
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils, pegged as underdogs by many heading into the tourney, showed their postseason pedigree once again Friday night, as Nicole Osborne hit her second game-winning shot in three days for a 53-50 semifinal victory over No. 2 Central at the Bangor Auditorium.
Coach Dana Redding’s 13-6 Blue Devils will play either No. 1 Foxcroft Academy or fifth-seeded Washington Academy of East Machias in tonight’s 7:05 championship game while Central of Corinth finishes 17-3.
Osborne’s jumper from the foul line with 37 seconds left in regulation gave Calais a 49-48 lead with 37 seconds to go, and she was 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final 26.5 seconds.
“Foul shots were big, we’ve been working on free throws a lot because that’s what’s been making and breaking games a lot,” said senior guard Alex McVicar.
Osborne canned two free throws with 26.5 left to give Calais a 51-48 lead, and Central’s Hannah Pray nailed a jumper in the lane on the subsequent possession.
After Osborne hit two more foul shots with 8.5 left to restore the lead to three, Central attacked the basket and a Pray shot at the buzzer was off the mark.
Even though her team was trailing by three, a perimeter shot wasn’t high on coach Diane Rollins’ list of priorities in that situation.
“I didn’t want them to go for the three, I didn’t want them to settle,” Rollins said. “I wanted them to attack and hopefully they would foul us.”
But Calais stayed disciplined in its defense and kept Pray off the perimeter.
“I was pretty sure she would’ve done her little spin-dribble and shot it [from outside],” said Osborne, who racked up 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Pray certainly had her way early, scoring seven first-quarter points as Central led by four after one and by the same margin at halftime.
The Blue Devils slowly kept chipping away and hanging around, and scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter while holding Central without a field goal over the period’s first 4:13.
That was mainly thanks to double- and triple-teams on 6-foot-4 Red Devils’ center Bekah Campbell down low.
“We really wanted to pack it in and focus on keeping her from getting a lot of points,” said McVicar, who had the tough assignment of guarding Pray.
“She has a really good spin-dribble and she’s really hard to guard,” McVicar added.
Central found itself in some foul trouble down the stretch, with two starters, Max McHugh and Jocelynn Portman each picking up their fifth fouls late in the fourth quarter.
After upsetting third-ranked and archrival Woodland in a similarly dramatic game on Tuesday, the Blue Devils entered this one with a boatload of confidence.
“We were underestimated coming into this, but that’s how we like it,” said McVicar. “Woodland was one of the teams chosen to win this, knocking them down really gave us some confidence.”
Pray’s 23 points led all scorers while Campbell had 13 points and 11 rebounds.