AUGUSTA — Fullcourt defensive pressure has been a hallmark of the Cony of Augusta girls basketball team for a generation, and it’s a major reason the top-ranked Rams are still undefeated after Friday night’s 57-47 victory over Bangor in their Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Just how effective was that defense in compensating for Bangor’s significant height advantage?
Cony’s defense induced 33 Bangor turnovers during the game while at the same time never allowing Bangor to shoot the one-and-one and sending the ninth-ranked Rams to the free-throw line just twice.
“We like to get up on the ball and pressure the wings,” said Cony senior guard Mia Diplock, who scored a game-high 25 points. “Bangor’s size was imposing so we knew we had to work on the fullcourt press. That’s definitely our type of play.”
And while Cony had only moderate success penetrating a Bangor zone defense anchored by 6-foot-2 senior center Katie Brochu — who had a triple-double that included 11 blocked shots — coach Karen Magnusson’s club converted from the perimeter and in transition after forcing turnovers to overcome any lack of an inside game.
“The game was choppy at times for us because they’re very tall and very athletic and they got a ton of blocks,” said Magnusson. “We had to adjust our game because we like to go inside and we usually get a lot more rebounds, but I think we made more shots from the outside tonight than we did from the inside.
“And that’s what good teams do, they make adjustments. I thought the girls did a real good job with that.”
Cony (19-0) will play No. 4 Mount Ararat of Topsham (13-6) in Wednesday’s semifinals. Mount Ararat defeated No. 5 Messalonskee of Oakland 52-46 in Friday night’s earlier quarterfinal.
Bangor ends its season with an 8-12 record.
Josie Lee added 13 points and Melanie Guzman 12 for Cony, which made 15 of 26 free-throw attempts compared to 0 of 2 for Bangor.
Brochu finished the night with 20 points, 17 rebounds and 11 blocked shots, with 14 points and 12 rebounds after intermission.
“She came out and she just played,” said Bangor coach Katie Herbine. “She’s a senior and she’s a tough kid who really wants to play and really wants to win.”
Freshman Cordelia Stewart added eight points for Bangor.
Diplock scored 13 points in the first half and Cony’s defense forced 19 early turnovers by Bangor — 13 in the first quarter — en route to a 33-16 lead at the break.
Bangor got as close as 40-29 after freshman Mary Butler made a 3-pointer and scored on a drive through the lane and Kayla Snow followed by picking up a loose ball and converting from the lane.
Cony then closed out the third quarter with seven unanswered points, including a layup and two free throws from Guzman and a steal and layup by Diplock, to take a 47-29 lead into the final period.
“Cony’s a great team,” said Herbine. “I think we played a really good second half, but you can’t get behind against a team like that and we came out looking a little scared and a little bit like it was our first (tourney) experience.
“I thought my kids played great in the second half, but Cony’s a fantastic team. They’re undefeated for a reason.”