BANGOR — Even while its 17-point halftime lead was vaporizing quickly Tuesday, the Washington Academy girls basketball team stayed poised.
Coach Gary Wood’s sixth-ranked Raiders from East Machias withstood a furious challenge from No. 3 Houlton in the second half and pulled out a 43-37 Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinal win at the Bangor Auditorium.
The 15-4 Raiders advanced to play No. 2 Central of Corinth in Friday’s 2:05 p.m. semifinal despite scoring only 14 second-half points.
Houlton finished 12-7.
Central won its game in similar fashion, building a big lead in the first half and holding off a stubborn No. 7 Penquis of Milo squad 52-44 in the second game of the morning session.
In the opener, everything that could possibly go right went right for the Raiders in the opening half.
After trailing 7-2 midway through the first quarter, WA closed the half on a 27-5 run, with 5-foot-10 Taylor Seeley scoring eight of her team-high 14 points over that span.
“The first half went really smoothly, everything was working out,” Seeley said. “Our shots were falling, we were playing really good defense.”
Seeley’s backdoor layup and a 3-pointer from the left wing by Mackenzie Foss stretched the Raiders’ lead to 17, and it looked like smooth sailing.
But coach Shawn Graham’s Shiretowners started to charge back in the third quarter, holding the Raiders to four points while scoring 17, eight coming from Marina Cameron.
“We’ve got eight freshmen and sophomores on this team,” Graham said. “We’re going to walk out of here feeling real proud of ourselves.”
The Shires completed their comeback with 2:47 left in the final period, with Amanda Fogarty driving in for a layup off an inbounds play at midcourt.
But Houlton wouldn’t score again, and Seeley scored on a baseline drive on WA’s next possession to put the Raiders ahead for good.
“When we took that one-point lead, we really needed to get a stop,” Graham said.
The Raiders were uncharacteristically careless with the ball, committing 20 turnovers.
“We knew they were going to make a run, but we weren’t really sure it was going to be that big,” Seeley said.
Fogarty had 16 points and Cameron 13 for Houlton while Seeley also had 14 rebounds for WA.
In the second game, undefeated Central (19-0) built a lead as high as 13 in the first half, with senior Hannah Pray scoring 13 of her game-high 20 points in the opening 16 minutes.
But Penquis (11-9) switched from a man to a zone at the break, and it paid off, as the Patriots gave the Red Devils fits on the perimeter.
“We didn’t come out strong in the second half,” said Pray.
Central led 32-19 at halftime, and Penquis made a game of it by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter, capped by Lexie Larson’s 3-pointer from the right side.
Penquis got as close as five in the fourth quarter, but the Devils hit their foul shots late to keep their distance.
Patriots head coach Jason Snider felt his club played with nerves early in the game.
“(We missed) shots that we should’ve knocked down, layups, turnovers killed us in the first half,” he said.
Bekah Campbell posted 15 points and seven rebounds for Central, but she had to work hard for most of her points as the Pats did an effective job doubling her in the paint.
“When they double Bekah we try to get everyone involved,” Pray said.
That included Roberta Trafton, who gathered nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end, while coming up with three steals.