BANGOR, Maine — The Brewer girls basketball team pressured Bangor all over the floor Thursday night because the Witches thought that would be their best way to counter the Rams’ height advantage.
It worked as the Witches forced numerous turnovers and battled Bangor on every entry pass and for every rebound en route to a 61-57 victory at Red Barry Gym.
“In order for us to beat any team, the key is our defense,” said Brewer sophomore guard Maddy Bailey.
“We haven’t run a lot of zone traps [before],” said Witches coach Andy Nickerson. “They’re learning to anticipate where the passes are going, and they did a good job.”
Bangor coach Katie Herbine admitted, “We couldn’t get anything really going. We need to attack more [running the offense] and attack the basket more.
“If we don’t get out and start fast, we seem to sit back the rest of the night.”
The other key was free throws. Brewer hit all 14 in the first half. The Witches struggled on the line in the second half (7 for 19), but Bailey’s two free throws in the closing seconds gave the Witches a four-point lead with 14.6 seconds remaining. Brewer stopped Bangor from there.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I knew I could make it,” said Bailey. “I knew if I made those, we would be good.”
Brewer took a 45-38 lead into the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t safe yet.
The Rams (2-3) scored the first six points of the fourth quarter on baskets by Katie Brochu, Mary Butler and Denae Johnson to cut Brewer’s lead to a point, 45-44, with 6:23 remaining.
But 29 seconds later, Butler fouled out when she tried unsuccessfully to stop an Alexa Grindle basket, and the Witches (2-3) were off on a 9-0 run.
Grindle added a free throw later, Deaven Smith had two baskets and Lindsay Houp one.
That pushed Brewer’s lead to 54-44, and the Witches fought off the Rams’ efforts to come back.
A 7-1 run by the Rams did cut the lead to 55-51 with 1:49 left, starting with two Erin Boulier baskets. She grabbed an airball all alone on the weak side and laid it in and followed it with a short jumper from the same side. Houp hit one of two free throws with 3:14 to go, and Hannah Colpritt pumped in a 3-pointer for Bangor.
Two Grindle free throws with 1:20 left blunted that run.
Bangor’s Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:17 to go and Bailey missed two free throws with 1:01 left.
Johnson sandwiched two hoops around one by Smith, and Brochu’s hoop with 17 seconds left trimmed the margin to 59-57.
That set up Bailey’s two key free throws.
“That’s something we work on,” said Nickerson. “… It’s nice to see the kids get rewarded for it.”
While Butler was the one to foul out, she wasn’t the only one in foul trouble. Brochu missed a lot of the first quarter even thought she was only called for one foul, but she picked up her fourth with 3:12 left in the third quarter as the Witches closely guarded her, denying the 6-foot-2 senior forward space to operate. She played sparingly until later in the fourth quarter when her offense was needed most.
Butler and Cordelia Stewart are 6-1, and Henigan is 5-10. They also had trouble inside against the smaller Witches, who don’t have a player taller than 5-9.
“That size is a real challenge,” said Nickerson.
“They outhustled us,” said Herbine. “We didn’t get to a lot of balls we should have.”
Grindle scored a game-high 18 points, Bailey added 14, Smith contributed a dozen points for the Witches, and Small had eight.
Johnson led the Rams with 12 points, and Kristen Henigan posted 11. Brochu finished with nine and Butler eight.
“We are still very young,” said Nickerson, “and learning how to win exciting, tense games is part of it. The kids stayed the course.”