MILO — Quality players and teams tend to rise to the occasion when called upon, and the Central girls baksetball team responded to a challenge from a resilient team Wednesday night.
Senior center Bekah Campbell scored 10 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter while Hannah Pray poured in a game-high 19 as the Red Devils from Corinth pulled away for a hard-earned 58-42 win over the Patriots on an emotional evening at Oakes Gymnasium.
Prior to the game, the Patriots honored the memory of Laura Gray, a former Penquis player who died of a staph infection last January.
Numerous fans throughout the gym, along with the Penquis coaches, wore pins with Gray’s picture on them, while the Patriots warmed up in T-shirts dedicated to theier former teammate.
Just after pre-game warmups ended, the Penquis players presented Gray’s mother with a bouquet of pink roses.
Given those circumstances, the Red Devils, who improved to 6-0, expected a hard-fought effort from Penquis (4-2), and that’s what they got.
“We definitely knew they were playing for (Gray). They came out with their best game, so we knew we had to come out with our best game,” Pray said.
Central used a 17-11 second-quarter run to build an eight-point halftime advantage, with Pray scoring seven of the points. Taryn Pineo capped the surge with a conventional three-point play in the final seconds of the half.
The Red Devils extended that lead to 13 near the end of the third, but Penquis would score the next nine points, capped by Kristyn Chapman’s steal and layup early in the fourth which made it a 40-36 game.
Central turned into its inside advantage from there, as Campbell scored the game’s next six points to restore the Devils’ lead to double digits, and it never got below that plateau the rest of the game.
“We worked a lot this week on me being more active, because it’s a lot harder to double somebody when they’re in the paint,” said Campbell, who also had nine rebounds and three blocked shots. “I just knew what I needed to do was come out and be active and be there for my team.”
Penquis’ 2-3 zone gave the Devils some fits inside in the first half, but they made adjustments as the game wore on.
“They’re a good team, and I think we just found our way to work through it and we worked as a team together,” Campbell said.
Cohesiveness and depth certainly worked for Central as sophomore point guard Max McHugh posted 10 points and four steals while Roberta Trafton came off the bench and contributed seven rebounds — including three on the offensive end — three steals and five points.
“Max is a very good point guard, she’s improving every day, and Roberta, she’s a smart player,” Pray said.
Even though the Patriots made a few solid runs, coach Jason Snider’s club was a tad inconsistent offensively, finishing 16-for-62 from the floor while committing 17 turnovers.
“Offense was very inconsistent tonight,“ Snider said. “We started beating them in the full court (press), and in the half court we just kept throwing it away.”
But Snider was proud of the way his Patriots played and honored their former teammate.
“You’ve got to tip your hat for that. They played through it, they really wanted to win that game, it just didn’t happen,” he said. “They made some big shots, I thought.”
Sadie Zambrano led Penquis with 13 points, while Hannah Bess scored 12.