ORONO — The Orono girls basketball team might not be satisfied with its field-goal percentage Tuesday night, but the Red Riots more than made up for that at the foul line.
Coach Jessica Libby’s club converted 15 of its 21 free-throw attempts in the second half while Leya Bryant hit a coast-to-coast layup with five seconds to play as Orono earned a thrilling 40-39 victory over rival Old Town at the high school gym.
Bryant’s layup capped a wild final three minutes in which neither team led by more than one, as Class C Orono improved to 4-3 while Class B Old Town fell to 3-3.
Bryant, who scored all six of her points in the fourth quarter, hit two free throws with 31 seconds left after she was fouled in the backcourt to put Orono up 38-37.
After the teams traded turnovers, Ashley Abbott put the Coyotes up 39-38 with a shot from the low block with 11 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Bryant drove the length of the court and kissed a lefthanded shot off the glass, taking advantage of the fact that the Coyotes weren’t willing to give up a foul.
“We just had to get the ball in and drive to the hoop,” Bryant said. “We knew they weren’t going to foul us because they were ahead by one.”
Old Town had two golden chances to win on its subsequent possession, but Kelsey Maxim’s 3-point shot from up top hit the back of the iron, and Abbott’s follow-up attempt from about 10 feet away rimmed out as time expired.
“At the end you’ve got five seconds and we get two great shots to win the game, I mean no coach could ask for any more than that,” said Old Town coach Dana Maxim, Kelsey’s father. “I’m very proud of them. I thought we were heading for another overtime like we did up to Old Town.”
Old Town beat Orono 33-30 in overtime in the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 22.
Both clubs struggled from the field — Old Town was 18-for-63 while Orono was 11-40 — but the Red Riots neutralized Old Town’s height advantage by attacking the rim, and they were rewarded with 25 trips to the foul line.
“We work on free throws every day in practice, it’s the main focus for us, and that’s what’s going to win games,” said Orono sophomore forward Jillian Woodward, who was 7-of-11 from the stripe en route to 11 points, while Woodward also hauled in 12 rebounds.
Jade Keezer, who was 3-of-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, led all scorers with 12 points for the Red Riots while Kate Berry had seven steals to go with her six points.
Free throws ultimately cost the Riots in their first meeting with Old Town, but Orono managed to step up when it needed to this time.
“We missed a lot of free throws, in this game we buckled down and made some key free throws, and I think that helped us win this game,” Woodward said.
Maxim felt Orono’s aggressiveness on the offensive end was a big game-changer, especially after 6-foot-3 forward Courtney Treadwell fouled out with 2:48 to go in regulation.
“I think that was the difference overall,” he said. “Both teams weren’t exceptional from the field, but both teams had a chance at the end.”
The game was tight throughout, with Old Town holding the game’s biggest lead at 14-8 thanks to a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, with Samantha McLaughlin converting two layups over that span.
But the Riots eventually closed to within two at halftime, thanks to layups from Keezer and Woodward and a pair of Laura Triandafillou foul shots.
Abbott posted a double-double for Old Town with 11 points and 12 rebounds.