ORONO — The Orono girls basketball players left East Millinocket on Saturday with a sour taste in their mouths after a 38-31 loss to Schenck, but coach Jessica Libby had a huge hunch her Red Riots would respond to that adversity.
They did in a big way on both ends of the floor Monday night, as the Riots overcame a shaky start to run away with a 69-51 Class C victory over Penquis of Milo.
Orono (6-4) had to answer another challenge early in the game, as the Patriots (5-3) scored the contest’s first six points. But the Riots scored the next seven, keyed by Leya Bryant’s 3-pointer from the right corner, to ignite a 20-10 run which gave Orono a 20-16 lead after the first eight minutes.
“We talked about how teams make runs and then it’s how you respond to their run that determines who’s going to ultimately win the game,” Libby said. “They made that run, I called a timeout, settled them down. I said OK now it’s our turn to make a run, let’s just make a bigger one.”
Orono also responded with offensive balance, as four Riots scored in double figures, led by Jade Keezer’s 15 points. Jillian Woodward had 14 points and eight rebounds, Laura Triandafillou tallied 12 points and Kate Berry added 11.
The Riots never trailed after Triandafillou’s followup basket late in the opening quarter, and Keezer had five points, including a perimeter shot from the left wing, to spark a 7-0 second-quarter burst that gave Orono some breathing room.
Penquis threw every defense in the book at the Red Riots, from a box-and-one to various zones, but Orono exhibited great patience on that end of the floor while shooting 7-for-19 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We knew that they were going to try a lot of differnet defenses on us. We were prepared to attack whatever they threw at us. We talked about everything before, so nothing was really a surprise that they threw at us,” Libby said.
The Riots’ own defense forced the Patriots into hurried shots, and Orono used that to fuel its own attack.
“We just knew that we had to play hard defense and know that we have it within us,” said Keezer. “We knew that they were a really good team, so we just fought back.”
Orono extended its lead to 17 in the third quarter, but Penquis methodically chipped away, getting within seven early in the fourth on a baseline shot by Sadie Zambrano. But Triandafillou canned a perimeter shot from up top on the Riots’ subsequent possession to extinguish any thoughts of a Patriots comeback.
Even though the Pats did play a solid defensive game in forcing 19 Orono turnovers, with Hannah Bess and Liz Larson each contributing three steals, the Riots remained confident and stuck to their game plan.
“We’re really good at transitioning to see what defense they’re playing, and we know exactly what offense to run against them, so we just hit the shots,” Berry said. “They threw a lot of different defenses at us, but we (were) really prepared.”
Orono also discovered that it features offensive balance, which could be a huge factor heading into the second half of the season.
“We had six kids with eight points or more, which just shows the balance, and that’s another mark of a good team is you don’t know defensively who to key on,” Libby said. “I don’t even know night to night who’s going to get all the points.”
Morgan Dickey contributed nine points and 10 rebounds for Orono, while Kristyn Chapman had 18 points, Larson 11 and Carolyn Bess 10 for Penquis.