ORONO — When you only score nine second-half points and one of your top shooters has an off night, signs normally point to a loss.
The Central girls basketball team fell victim to both of those traits Monday night, but the Red Devils from Corinth made some pivotal plays down the stretch, and Bekah Campbell sank a free throw with three seconds to play for a 38-37 victory over the Orono Red Riots.
Coach Diane Rollins’ club had led by as many as 17 in the first half, but the Red Riots came storming back thanks to excellent full-court pressure while the Red Devils simply felt they didn’t execute well offensively.
“We had a lead, we shouldn’t have lost it, we could’ve won by a lot more and we’re a better team,” said Campbell, who scored 13 points to lead 3-0 Central.
Orono, which outscored the Red Devils 23-9 in the second half, fell to 1-2.
Coach Jessica Libby’s Riots came all the way back to tie it in the final half-minute of the fourth quarter, as Leah Bryant stole a Central inbounds pass and sank the first of two free throws to tie it, but an Orono player stepped on the baseline after rebounding the missed second free throw, giving Central the ball back.
After a timeout, the Devils worked it inside to the 6-foot-4 Campbell, and she was fouled on a layup with three seconds left, and the Riots never got another shot off.
“At the five-second mark the pass was supposed to go into me for the last shot,” said Campbell.
Central built its first-half lead behind a strong defensive effort of its own, forcing 15 Orono turnovers and going on a 15-4 run in the second quarter.
Sophomore point guard Max McHugh had six steals and four assists in the first 16 minutes while also scoring eight points for the game, and she was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult night for the Devils.
“Max is definitely the anchor to our defense, she does great things and she works hard,” Rollins said. “She didn’t have a break during that game, she played all 32 minutes.”
Central led just 14-10 after one, but a driving shot by Brianna Speed sandwiched around two Campbell layups put the Devils up by double figures, but Libby settled her players down after halftime, and the Riots started executing better.
“I think my kids just got the turnovers out of their system in the first half,” said Libby. “We really finished the ball inside, we have some kids that went to the basket and weren’t scared of (Campbell).
Particularly Dickey, who scored 11 of her game-high 17 points after halftime, while Orono’s full-court trap prevented Central from sustaining any offensive rhythm.
“We knew that was going to be a key to the game, obviously if they can get it in the halfcourt and just lob it inside it’s going to be an easy day for them, so we needed to try to get them out of their comfort zone and make them do something different,” said Libby.
The Red Devils certainly know they have a lot of work to do.
“Coach says we need to play a 32-minute game and we didn’t,” said Campbell. “We have yet to, I mean yeah, we won the game but we aren’t proud of it.”
Samantha Brownell did a solid job on the backboards off the bench for Central, grabbing seven rebounds while Speed had eight points and Roberta Trafton four steals.
Orono held Central without a field goal the last 7:06 of the game in making its comeback.