ORONO — Washington Academy girls basketball coach Gary Wood wasn’t happy with his team’s first-half performance in Tuesday night’s Eastern Maine Class C championship game.
His Raiders had been outrebounded, outshot at the line, outhustled on defense, and found themselves in foul trouble as well.
But rather than read his team the riot act, Wood kept it simple and reminded them what they had to do.
“At halftime we talked about committing silly fouls, which was not like us. We weren’t moving our feet, we were hacking,” Wood said. “So we talked about getting back to our game, and we knew if we hung around, we could find a way to win.”
The Raiders did get back to their game, hung around, and did just that — holding the Orono Red Riots scoreless over the last five minutes to turn a 39-33 deficit into a 42-39 victory at Alfond Arena and their first trip to the Class C state championship game on Saturday. The Raiders will play West champ Hall-Dale in a 7 p.m. game at the Bangor Auditorium.
It was the first-ever high school tourney basketball game at Alfond Arena, where the game was moved after it was postponed for a second time Monday due to a storm.
The game was not held at the Bangor Auditorium because it was scheduled to set up for a recreational products show.
It may have taken Washington Academy time to adjust to Alfond Arena as it was almost a complete reversal of fortune as the 17-4 Raiders, seeded sixth in the tourney, went from committing nine turnovers in the first half to six in the second, while helping to force an Orono team that committed just three first-half turnovers into nine in the second.
“They got up on the passing lanes a little bit more and we did some uncharacteristic things with some bad passes and stuff,” said Orono coach Jessica Libby, whose fourth-seeded Riots wind up 14-7. “They also really adjusted well and didn’t foul us as much in the second half. So we didn’t get as many foul shots, which kind of hurt.”
Seniors led the comeback charge for the Raiders, who only trailed 23-20 at halftime despite their first-half troubles.
Taylor Seeley (11 points, 10 rebounds) ignited the game-deciding, 9-0 run with a put-back from the right block. Then Kayleigh Bridges scored four straight on two foul shots and a fast-break layup off a Seeley steal and pass. Seeley then scored on the prettiest move of the game, taking a pass from Bridges on the right block, driving into the low post while being draped by defenders, and then scoring from the left block on a reverse scoop/hook that made it 41-39 WA with 50 seconds left.
“That’s her signature move,” said Bridges.
Bridges finished with five points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and one big steal in the fourth quarter.
“She’s probably the most underrated player on this team,” said Seeley. “She does so many things besides scoring that help us win.”
Bridges was also the primary defender against 5-foot-10 Orono star forward Jillian Woodward, who was held scoreless in the second half, and finished with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.
“We just tried to three-quarter front the post and we used help defense on her while keeping one girl on Jade Keezer,” said Bridges.
Keezer, who set a tourney record with eight 3-pointers in a game, wound up with 10 points and four assists.
After that, the defense continued to harass the Riots, who committed seven turnovers in the final quarter. Orono managed just one shot in the final minute.
Senior guard Christy Smith had 10 points for the Raiders and Brandelyn Hodgdon had seven points despite sitting much of the second half with four fouls.