BREWER, Maine — Opponents knew at the start of the girls basketball season that Bangor, with three players at 6 feet or taller, would probably have superior height in every game.
Now, their conditioning program is becoming a factor, and the Rams are running, too.
Ninth-seeded Bangor mixed that superior height with surprising speed to oust cross-river rival Brewer 70-47 in an Eastern Maine Class A basketball preliminary-round game Tuesday night.
“We got started with our conditioning over the summer,” said freshman Mary Butler, one of the 6-footers and who was one of eight members of the basketball program that played on last fall’s soccer team.
“Conditioning has really helped,” said Bangor coach Katie Herbine. “[Even] the big kids can really run.”
“They’re huge,” said Brewer coach Andy Nickerson, “but they’re athletically big.”
The win sends Bangor (8-11) to an EM Class A quarterfinal matchup Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center against No. 1 Cony of Augusta, which defeated Bangor 58-37 about a month ago.
“We played Cony relatively well,” said junior guard Jordan Seekins, “they just made more baskets. We’ve progressed, and we’re making a lot more shots now.”
Butler scored 19 points and Seekins added 18 as the Rams defeated No. 8 seed Brewer (9-10) for the second time in six days. Bangor held off Brewer 72-69 on Thursday to claim its spot in the tourney.
“Nobody wants to play [Bangor] in the tournament,” said Nickerson. “They’re playing with confidence.”
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” said Butler.
Junior guard Denae Johnson posted 10 points for Bangor on Tuesday, and freshman forward Cordelia Stewart had seven.
Juniors Lindsay Houp and Alexa Grindle paced the Witches with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Maddy Bailey, who scored 25 points in Thursday’s game, was held to three points Tuesday.
Tuesday’s contest started much the same way as Thursday’s with both teams playing a fast-paced style that led to a lot of points.
Seekins started the scoring with a 3-pointer, but the Witches responded with a Bailey free throw and a Houp 3 to take its only lead.
Kayla Snow hit another 3 for Bangor, and the Rams were ahead for good.
The Rams took an 18-13 lead after the first quarter, and Brewer could only close the gap to one (25-24 with 3:24 remaining before the half) and never caught Bangor. The Rams pushed it to 38-29 at halftime, sealed by an 8-2 run in the last 1:05 of the second quarter.
Herbine reminded her team of Brewer’s comeback from a big deficit in last week’s game, and the Rams responded. They used their height advantage to harrass the Witches’ shooters from underneath the basket all the way out to the 3-point arc.
“You just have to pay attention [to the situation] and go straight up. Our height helps,” said Stewart.
Bangor held the Witches to three field goals in the second half, two early in the third quarter and a 3-pointer by Courtney Benson with 42 seconds left in the game.
“It was definitely good to get out and run,” said Stewart. “We just have to talk on defense.”
Bangor pushed its margin to as many as 28 points (69-41) with 2:07 left and secured the win.
“In the second half, we did a good job of finding their shooters,” said Herbine.
“I just think their size wore us out,” said Nickerson, who noted that Bangor played its zone defense well. “And they found ways to score a lot of points. They’re kids played really well.”
Butler took her game all over the floor Tuesday, including making a 3-pointer in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t like me,” she said smiling, but the Rams aggressive play paid off.
They passed to open players and were strong defensively as well.
“We really looked for each other,” said Butler. “We tried to look for an advantage inside. We knew we had a big advantage.