OLD TOWN — The Orono Red Riots knew they needed to neutralize the height advantage of the Old Town Coyotes in Tuesday night’s girls basketball game at MacKenzie Gym.
So the Riots pressed the Coyotes relentlessly in the backcourt, making it a challenge just to get the ball across half-court let alone down low to the post players.
“If you can’t get the ball over half-court, the big people are not as much of a factor,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham.
Jillian Woodward’s go-ahead layup and a pair of driving baskets by Laura Triandafillou propelled Orono to a 41-35 victory over archrival Old Town.
Woodward’s score with 4:41 remaining in the game put the Red Riots up 28-27. Triandafillou’s hoops sandwiched around teammate Leya Bryant’s drive down the right side for a jumper continued a 10-1 run that gave Eastern Maine Class C contender Orono a 36-28 lead with 2:24 left.
The Coyotes, tabbed as a playoff contender in Class B, could only close the gap to four points with 38.5 seconds remaining. Bryant hit two free throws in the final 25 seconds to secure the win.
“We know what we have to do … and it’s just a matter of executing it,” said Witham. “It was execution at the end that was the difference.”
“Execution and turnovers let us down,” said Old Town coach Dana Maxim, quickly adding, “But that was due to their pressure. I want to give them credit for that.”
Old Town started the game getting the ball to their big people — 6-foot-3 senior center Courtney Treadwell, 5-10 forward/center Ashley Abbott and 5-8 junior forward/center Brook Cole — who accounted for all nine of their first-quarter points.
But Orono was able to take the lead 10-9 in the closing seconds of the first quarter on senior Kate Berry’s driving layup.
Scoring was hard to come by in the second quarter with a drought for both teams that covered the first 2:06 of the quarter.
Abbott’s basket with 5:54 remaining in the half sparked a inside flurry for the Riots, who took a 17-14 edge with 3:37 left before halftime. The scoring went cold for both teams from there until Triandafillou grabbed a rebound of a second missed shot and scored to cut Old Town’s lead to 17-16 at halftime.
Both teams suffered offensively in the third quarter, which finished close to the way it started — only four points for each team and a 21-20 Old Town lead.
“Orono is well coached defensively,” said Maxim. “We didn’t handle that [pressure] well, and that led to turnovers.”
The teams traded the lead three times in the early going of the fourth quarter until Woodward’s key hoop.
“We could definitely feel it coming together,” said Woodward of the fourth-quarter surge. “We just knew we needed to make some baskets, which hadn’t been easy to do.”
Triandafillou thought the Red Riots were a little nervous to start the game.
“It’s their home court and we know they’re tough,” she said.
That wore off, though.
“Definitely after halftime we stepped it up,” said Triandafillou.
Woodward, the daughter of University of Maine men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward, finished with 11 points to top the 1-1 Red Riots, Bryant posted 10 and Triandafillo had eight.
Samantha McLaughlin led the 1-1 Coyotes with 11 points, Ashley Abbott had 10 and Courtney Treadwell seven.