DEXTER, Maine — The Orono Red Riots are leaving their opponents with quite the basketball dilemma this winter.
Devote insufficient defensive attention to 6-foot junior center Jillian Woodward and it’s a double-double waiting to happen.
But focus too much on Orono’s inside game and there’s an array of perimeter players lurking to launch 3-pointers or at least make the extra pass for a higher-percentage shot — all the while spreading out the defense to create lanes for potential offensive rebounds.
Both facets of that attack were on display Wednesday evening, as Woodward amassed 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots while senior guard Kate Berry scored 14 points and was one of four Orono players to make a 3-point shot as the top-ranked Red Riots held off Dexter 52-41 in a Class C girls basketball game at Guiski Gymnasium.
Orono is now 13-3 on the season after winning for the 11th time in its last 12 games. Dexter, which began the night ranked eighth in Eastern C, is 9-6.
“We’re pretty lucky where we’ve got a post presence inside but if teams sag too much we can kick the ball out to 3-point shooters, so if you’re playing us you have a decision to make,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham. “Do you play out on our shooters and leave the inside people to play one on one, or do you double down?
“This team is very unselfish in that respect because they’re willing to pass to the open person and they don’t really care who scores as long as the team wins.”
Woodward, who was coming off a 26-point, 20-rebound performance in a win at Class B John Bapst of Bangor on Monday, shot 7 of 11 from the field overall and made her first three attempts of the game while the Red Riots limited Dexter to four points over the first 11 minutes, 57 seconds of play in building a double-digit lead.
“Tonight, we came out strong,” said Woodward. “We knew we had to come out strong because Dexter plays a lot like us, they play tough, full-court man-to-man. We knew it was going to be a battle from start to finish.”
Indeed it was, for after trailing 15-4 midway through the second quarter, Dexter rallied behind six points from junior guard Jordyn Bell and two inside baskets from Gabrielle Adam to offset a pair of 3-pointers by Orono’s Caleigh Paul and draw within 23-16 at intermission.
Orono reasserted itself offensively early in the third quarter, moving out to a 31-20 lead thanks in large part to 3-pointers by Leya Bryant and Berry.
Dexter then turned up its perimeter defense, forcing seven Orono turnovers in the quarter to complete a 13-2 run that brought the Tigers all the way back to a 31-31 tie on a 3-pointer by Maicee Gustin with 1:17 left in the period.
Dexter then had a chance to take its first lead of the night, but Bell missed the front end of a one-and-one after one of her four steals for the game, and Orono regrouped to score the final four points of the third period on a jumper by Laura Triandafillou and a layup by Woodward off a high-post lob from Triandafillou.
Orono extended that run to 10-1 early in the final quarter as Triandafillou (four points, seven rebounds and six assists) made two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound and fed Woodward and Berry for inside baskets as the Red Riots’ moved out to a 41-32 lead with 5:13 remaining.
“I think we just kind of lost composure a little bit in the third quarter, but we were able to regain it,” said Woodward, whose team has 10 players back from the 2011 club that advanced to the Eastern Maine Class C championship game.
“We’re a veteran team and we’ve been in situations like that before, so we know how to respond,” added Woodward. “We knew we had to shut down their run, and that’s what we did.”
Dexter got no closer than seven points the rest of the way as Orono made 11 of its 16 fourth-quarter free throws.
“I think what I was really proud of tonight was that the kids showed a lot of character,” Witham said. “Dexter tied the game up and we didn’t panic at all. We stayed composed, we ran our offense, got a couple of shots and never panicked. That’s the mark of a good team.”
Bell finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Dexter while Lauren Crane scored nine points for the Tigers.