BANGOR, Maine — Coach Mike Webb’s plan for his John Bapst girls basketball team’s rematch with Hermon on Saturday night was to have his Crusaders bottle up the inside.
“We wanted to make them beat us from the outside,” said Webb.
The plan worked.
Emily Tilton, a senior forward for the Crusaders of Bangor, scored four of her game-high 21 points in the final minute to blunt a Hermon rally and give Bapst (6-6) a tight 41-36 victory at the Bangor Auditorium.
Bapst’s win, its third in a row, avenged a 53-43 loss at Hermon on Dec. 30.
“This game was the way we wanted it to be,” said Webb. “We did not want to run up and down the floor with them. The [slower] pace played right into our style.”
The Hawks (8-5) didn’t go quietly. They trimmed an 11-point Bapst lead early in the fourth quarter down to two (36-34) with 1:35 remaining.
The score stayed that way for nearly a minute as Hermon missed a pair of field goal attempts and both teams missed two free throws.
Then Tilton drove in for a layup with 46 seconds left and gave the Crusaders a four-point cushion.
“I don’t know how I do what I do,” said Tilton, who scored inside and outside. “I just go with the flow. I work with what we [face defensively].”
The Hawks hung in. Sophomore Kaitlin Saulter scored with 16.6 seconds left to make it 38-36.
Tilton was fouled with 10.8 seconds to go as she drove to the basket and hit both free throws to make it a four-point game again.
Hermon senior guard Raychel Alley missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left and Bapst junior forward Darby Paul was fouled in the rebounding action. Paul hit one of two free throws with 3.1 seconds left, and the Hawks were out of time.
“For us, this is a huge win,” said Webb.
Senior forward Allison Higgins complemented Tilton’s scoring with an 11-point performance. Senior guards Taylor True and Paige Martin playing roles for the Crusaders in bottling up the Hawks’ offense. Bapst was also playing without the Pyne sisters — sophomore forward Abby still hasn’t returned from her left knee injury and junior forward Sarah reportedly was ill during the week.
Alley put up 20 points for the Hawks, and Britney Hamlin and Jenna Crouse were next with five points each.
Both teams put together strong runs during the game, starting with the Hawks going on a 10-0 spurt in the first quarter.
For the second quarter, the Crusaders switched out of their man-to-man defense.
“Our 2-3 zone defense made the difference,” said Webb.
That allowed him to keep defenders where he needed them, inside, and not chasing the Hawks around the floor.
Bapst neutralized Hermon senior center Mikayla Treadwell, holding her to two points after she picked up two first-quarter fouls. She was in and out of the game sporadically before fouling out with 4:15 remaining in the game.
With Treadwell out “we lose rebounding, we lose post play,” said Hermon coach Phil Robinson.
Treadwell is also a fierce competitor.
“She brings a lot of energy to the floor,” said Robinson.
With the inside shut down, the Crusaders looked to outside containment.
“Alley is great, she is going to get her points,” said Webb. “We didn’t want the rest to beat us.”
Alley was 6 for 15 from the floor (40 percent), the rest of the Hawks were 5 for 30 (16.7 percent).
Robinson thought the Hawks could counter the Crusader defense.
“We shoot well from the perimeter,” said Robinson. “They just didn’t go in.”
Hermon’s lack of shooting success was most pronounced in the second quarter, after the defensive change, when Hermon was 0-for-9 from the floor, including 0-for-8 on 3s. The only shot attempted from inside the 3-point arc came when Crouse rebounded her own missed 3 just before the buzzer and rushed up a short bank shot that also missed.
Bapst scored the final seven points of the third quarter to take a 29-20 lead into the fourth.
Tilton thought that was a key for the Crusaders.
“That gave us confidence to finish strong,” she said.