ORONO, Maine — The Orono High School girls basketball team spent recent practices working on breaking Central of Corinth’s press.
The work paid off as the Red Riots defeated Central 47-32 Saturday night, avenging a 36-30 loss to the Red Devils on Dec. 19 in Corinth.
“We used exactly what we saw in that game and matched that in practice,” said senior guard Kate Berry, whose job was to break the press. “We ran it at 100 percent, so we were confident bringing it down.”
A combination of outside offense opening up inside space allowed Orono (8-2) to grab an 18-7 lead in the second quarter.
The Riots made only one of their eight 3-pointers in the first quarter, but drawing out Central defenders gave 6-foot junior center Jillian Woodward and 5-11 forward Katie Sypher some elbow room.
Woodward scored most of her team-high 12 points on layups and a short jumper, while Sypher drew fouls, making 4 of 5 from the line.
“It helps when your teammates are in the right position, [creating] gaps in the passing lanes,” said Berry. “That’s why we had so many openings.”
The Devils, conversely, struggled with Orono’s press. Turnovers and an inability to penetrate well on offense sank Central (8-2).
“Our keys were to defend [freshman forward] Brianna Skolfield and defend their guards better in the backcourt,” said Witham.
Doing the former started by doing the latter.
Witham’s plan was to give senior Leya Bryant the task of defending against Central’s fiery junior guard Max McHugh, pressuring her up the court, sticking with her all over the court and forcing her to pass the ball.
“[Bryant] stepped up to the challenge,” said Witham. “She made life difficult for [McHugh].”
“She’s very good going left and right,” said Bryant. “You just have to face-guard her and frustrate her.”
The Red Riots maintained that formula for the remainder of the game and blunted Central’s attempts to rally.
“We made it harder than we had to with our own turnovers,” said Central coach Diane Rollins. “We made turnovers on our own.”
Skolfield struggled to find her touch for most of the game, forced to shoot jumpers to get some space or going inside and being contested on her layup attempts.
“We struggled getting the ball from the wings to the post,” said Rollins. “I don’t think we passed well, and that’s something we’ve been working on all season.”
The 6-0 Skolfield did start getting to the basket more in the final quarter, but half of her 10 fourth-quarter points came after Woodward fouled out with 4:58 remaining.
At that point Orono held a 41-26 edge. Central cut it to 12 twice, the first time at 41-29 with 4:02 left.
But scoring on both sides dried up with each team scoring three points in the last four minutes.
“This was good,” said Bryant. “We always have tough games against them.
“They won the last three, so it was important for us to win on our home court.”
The Red Devils shot 8-for-32 (25 percent) from the floor for the game, while Orono was a little better at 15-for-45 (33.3 percent).
Senior guard Caleigh Paul came in as a sub but she finished as Orono’s No. 2 scorer, hitting three 3-pointers for nine points in the game. Senior guard Laura Triandafillou added eight points.
“Paul getting nine points off the bench, that’s huge,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham. “It makes a difference when there are other people to key on.”
Skolfield scored a game-high 15 points to pace the Devils. Senior forward Sam Brownell was next with five points.
“We work very well together, we’re not a one-person show,” said Bryant.