AUGUSTA, Maine — In a game that featured more fireworks than a Fourth of July celebration, Amanda Hotham provided the biggest spark for the Fort Fairfield girls basketball team in Saturday’s Class D state final at the Augusta Civic Center.
Hotham turned her ankle on a collision under the basket early in the third quarter against Greenville, and went into a hallway for a couple of minutes while the Lakers took advantage of the sophomore’s absence and built a nine-point lead.
But Hotham re-entered with just more than four minutes to play and stuck a 3-pointer the first time the Tigers had the ball, which started a 12-2 quarter-ending run to give Fort Fairfield a two-point lead entering the final eight minutes.
Coach Larry Gardner’s club never trailed again, as the Tigers won the first gold ball in school history — boys or girls — with a 67-59 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.
Hotham, a 5-foot-10 forward who led all scorers with 27 points while hauling in 10 rebounds, isn’t exactly a perimeter threat, but found herself open in the right corner and sent the Fort Fairfield fans into a frenzy.
But then again, it’s not like she hasn’t done it before.
“Amanda, like I told you before, she can do anything on that court,” said senior Courtney Churchill, who also scored in double figures with 15 points. “When she hit that three, it just kind of sparked all of us. I’m just so ecstatic.”
Hotham scored 14 of her points after re-entering the game, and said she felt very minimal pain.
“It’s fine, I think it was just the shock from when I went down on it,” said Hotham.
The Tigers, who wind up 21-1, stuck to the same formula that brought them here: good free-throw shooting. Gardner’s team went 24 of 29 from the foul line, with Churchill going 9 of 10 and Hotham 10 of 11.
“To win these games down here you have to be able to shoot foul shots,” said Churchill. “We shoot like 50 foul shots in practice.”
Greenville tried every defense possible — from full-court pressure to a triangle-and-two —- to try and slow Hotham, but she would still find a way to attack the rim.
“We tried a triangle and two, doubling her, triple-teaming,” said Lakers’ coach John Jardine, whose club finishes 16-4. “She’d split two-three people going to the basket and draw a foul or score.”
Even when Hotham was surrounded by Lakers, her teammates rose up and hit their shots. Sydney Churchill, a freshman, came in off the bench to score 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting while Brooke Beaulieu contributed eight and Kacie York six.
“They all had a role to play, they all played it well. It’s a great feeling,” said Gardner.
The offensive fireworks were exploding in the first half, during which the Lakers shot 50 percent (18 of 36) from the floor and the Tigers 52 percent (12 of 23). Greenville led 40-34 at halftime behind McKenna Peat’s 13 first-half points, including a NBA-range 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Saige Weeks’ backdoor layup gave the Lakers their biggest lead of the game in the third at 48-37, but that’s when Hotham took over.
Hotham was worried at first that her injury may have been more serious.
“I was like, if this girl took me out I’m going to cry,” Hotham said. “[The trainer] pushed in certain spots and it didn’t hurt. I think it was just the shock of me going down on it.”
When coming out of the locker room to meet reporters after the game, Hotham was clutching the game ball tightly, given to her by assistant coach Vaughan McLaughlin, while Churchill, like last week, doesn’t plan on taking the net off her neck for a while.
“It feels like I’m in a dream right now. I’m so excited,” Churchill said. “I was all emotional and crying now I’m just like I can’t believe we just did this.”
The teams set a record for most combined points in a Class D girls state final with 126, beating the old mark by one.
That plateau (125) was set in 1981 when John Bapst beat Vinalhaven 73-52.
Greenville’s 59 points were also the most recorded by a losing team, eclipsing Monmouth Academy’s 55 in a 60-55 loss to Shead of Eastport in 1999.
The Lakers showed off a balanced scoring attack as Peat tallied a team-high 18 points while Gretel Breton had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals and Weeks notched 14 points and 11 boards.