BANGOR, Maine — Free-throw shooting by the Bangor girls basketball team has run hot and cold this season.
In Thursday night’s regular-season finale at the Bangor Auditorium against cross-river rival Brewer, the Rams were hot with their tournament hopes on the line.
Three free throws by senior Katie Brochu and freshman Mary Butler in the final 1:45 lifted Bangor to a 72-69 victory over the Witches.
The win gave the Rams (7-11) a chance to make the Eastern Maine Class A tournament as the No. 9 team, but that will be determined by the outcomes of other games.
The most important of those was Thursday night’s game between No. 9 Oxford Hills of South Paris and No. 5 Mt. Blue of Farmington.
“If Oxford Hills loses, we should be in,” said Bangor coach Katie Herbine.
Host Mt. Blue downed the Vikings 64-56, pushing the Rams into the ninth spot and dropping Oxford Hills into 10th. Only nine EM A teams make the tournament, with the prelim game between the Nos. 8 and 9 teams set for Tuesday.
But first Bangor had to win against Brewer, which was ranked seventh but dropped to eighth after the loss.
The Witches were not going to make it easy for their rivals.
Maddy Bailey hit two 3-pointers and a layup and Alex Grindle also posted a 3 in an 11-1 run that pulled the Brewer Witches into a 69-all tie with 2:28 remaining.
“Holy cow, they can shoot,” said Herbine afterward.
After a miss apiece by both teams in a fast-paced contest, Brochu hit the front end of a one-and-one to make it 70-69 with 1:45 left.
Kayla Snow grabbed the rebound but was called for a travel as she was harried by the Witches.
Bailey then put up a shot that missed at the Witches’ end and the Rams tried to connect on a long pass, but it was knocked out of bounds by Brewer.
The teams traded turnovers and tie-ups until Butler hit her two free throws with 19.8 seconds to go.
“Being a freshman, that was a big moment for her,” said Herbine.
Brewer’s Lindsey Houp took a pass to the left of the lane, but her attempt went awry.
Bangor sped the ball upcourt but Brewer denied entry, forcing the ball loose as the seconds ran down.
The horn blew with the ball still on the floor.
“We had the ball and got a look, it just didn’t go for us,” said Brewer coach Andy Nickerson.
“I have to give [Bangor] credit,” added Nickerson. “They knew they had to win, and I thought their kids played with a great deal of energy and commitment, and ours did, too.”
Jordan Seekins powered Bangor early, hitting two 3s en route to posting 10 points in the first quarter.
“I was very pumped,” said Seekins, who finished with 21 points. “I knew we had to win and I was ready to do it.”
Seekins, a junior guard, thought that hitting the early baskets was a key for the Rams.
“It gave me confidence, and I think it brought everyone else up, too,” she said.
“She’s a great shooter,” said Herbine. “It just happens she’s also extremely athletic. She also runs the floor.”
Seekins kept it up and added 10 points in the second quarter as the Rams pushed out to a 47-34 halftime edge.
“Our frustration,” said Nickerson, “came more from how open our zone became and how we allowed them to penetrate in the first half.”
That penetration led to short jumpers by junior guard Denae Johnson, who scored 10 points in the game, and junior forward Kayla Snow, who tallied all six of her points in the first quarter.
“We just dug ourselves too deep a hole,” said Nickerson.
Freshman forward Cordelia Stewart added an offensive spurt for Bangor as well, scoring 12 of her 14 points in the second and third quarters. Senior center Katie Brochu and Butler had eight apiece for the game.
Bailey, a sophomore guard, scored a game-high 25 points for Brewer (9-9), and junior Morgan Small posted 13, Grindle had nine and Houp and Deaven Smith seven each.
“Once we got down, I knew I had to score and I tried to,” said Bailey.
She was the catalyst for the Witches, scoring eight in the first quarter to keep the Witches close, then registering 15 in the second half as the Witches came back.
Brewer was down 10 after three quarters at 62-52.
“I think we were tired at the end of the third quarter, but we knew we had to work hard to get back,” said Bailey.
Brewer trimmed Bangor’s lead to four (56-52) with just under two minutes to go in the third, but a 6-0 Bangor run to close out the quarter was extended to 9-0 to start the fourth and a 65-52 edge.
The Witches wouldn’t go away, though.
“They did a really great job running the floor,” said Herbine.
She gave credit to her Rams, too, as they played a game at the Auditorium for the first time since last season.
“I think the environment really pumped them up,” she said.