AUGUSTA — Even though his Hampden Academy girls basketball team entered halftime with a six-point cushion over Messalonskee Tuesday night, coach Chad Bradbury had a feeling a storm was coming in the Eastern Maine Class A final.
“We knew coming out the third quarter if we could just weather the storm, get through the third quarter, they would get tired,” said Bradbury.
The Broncos counterattacked the Eagles’ blizzard of 3-pointers with a thunderous perimeter display of their own, as Michaela Stephenson keyed a 25-2 run with 11 points to help No. 3 Hampden pull away for a 62-40 victory over the eighth-ranked Eagles at the Augusta Civic Center.
It seemed fitting that Stephenson gave the 19-2 Broncos a spark, as she’s the daughter of Cindy Rand, who was on the last Hamdpen girls squad to win an EM ‘A’ title in 1976.
“It’s cool that my mom was on the same team that won the last Eastern Maine championship, but I was just looking forward to winning this game with my team,” said Stephenson, who scored all 11 of her points in the second half.
“It’s been awesome.”
Hampden will take on Catherine McAuley of Portland in Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. state final in Augusta while Messalonskee of Oakland finishes the season 11-10.
Stephenson was one of three Broncos in double figures, with Julia Snyder leading the way with 17 points while Katelyn DeRaps added 12 and Jordan Maxwell eight off the bench.
The Eagles managed to hang around thanks to their perimeter shooting, with Abby Stacey and Mary Badeen canning perimeter shots to erase a six-point halftime deficit.
But a follow-up shot by Snyder and two 3-pointers by Maxwell eventually gave Hampden a 30-28 lead, and the Broncos never trailed again after Maxwell’s bomb from the left corner with 3:40 left in the third..
“Our shots weren’t necessarily falling in the first half,” said Stephenson. “Jordan came out and made two quick ones in the second and it was just contagious. Kate and I started making them, Helene (Sherburne) started making them, it was awesome.”
Snyder and Maxwell frustrated Eagles’ 6-foot-2 forward Megan Pelletier throughout the night, and Snyder’s offensive work inside eventually freed things up for the Broncos’ shooters.
Pelletier did finish with 10 points, but she had to work hard for all of them.
“One of our mottos is nothing easy, ball pressure and they did a great job with that in the third quarter,” said Bradbury.
Pelletier did re-tie it on a baseline drive with 3:07 left in the third, but Snyder scored twice from in close and Stephenson followed with a 3-pointer from the right corner to give HA a 37-33 edge entering the final minute of the third.
With Hampden leading 43-35 after three, Stephenson drained a perimeter shot from the left wing, then hit a driving layup to give HA a sizeable cushion. Sherburne and Stephenson then drained another 3-pointer apiece to make it 54-35 with 4:32 to go.
The Broncos canned seven 3-pointers in the second half and nine for the game, adjusting to Messalonskee’s 2-3 zone while wearing the Eagles out with depth.
“Their defense was pretty good in the first half, their zone was better than we expected,” said DeRaps. “Wearing them down definitely got us more open looks.”
It also took away the Eagles’ own shooting legs, as Hampden held Messalonskee without a field goal over the first 6 minutes, 17 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“(Our depth) was definitely key, in the end we were still pushing the ball and they were getting tired, and we have the subs to bring in to keep our legs fresh,” said Stephenson.
Even though the Broncos won both regular-season meetings against the Eagles, they stayed focused against a team that had defeated top-ranked Morse and No. 4 Cony to get here.
“Our game plan overall was to not overlook Messalonskee,” said Snyder, who also had seven rebounds.
DeRaps and Stephenson combined for five steals for Hampden, which forced seven Messalonskee turnovers in the fourth quarter and 16 for the game.
Badeen’s 11 points led the Eagles.