BREWER, Maine — Strong defensive pressure and hard work underneath both baskets led Skowhegan to a 51-30 victory over Brewer in a girls basketball matchup Wednesday night at the Brewer High gym.
“Defense is something that we’ve been working harder on lately,” said Skowhegan junior forward Andrea Quirion.
“I wanted 32 minutes of defense out of them,” said Indians coach Heath Cowan. “Our shots were not going in in the first quarter, but our defense kept us in the game.”
The game was close early with a Lindsay Houp 3-pointer pulling the Witches into a 4-4 tie with 49.3 seconds left in the first quarter.
Quirion countered with a layup 17 seconds later that ignited a 9-0 run that carried through the first 2:45 of the second period. Brewer was never able to catch Skowhegan after that.
The Indians (3-4) have won two of their last three games and moved up to No. 6 in the Heal points. The Witches are ranked fourth. The top nine make the playoffs.
“All the credit to them. They needed a win and they played like they wanted it,” said Brewer coach Andy Nickerson.
Cheyenne Malloy and Quirion led the Indians’ offense. Malloy, a senior guard who fired up shots mostly from outside, scored a game-high 12 points, and Quirion, battling the Witches underneath, added 11.
“We talked in practice about getting the ball inside more,” said Cowan. “Even if we’re not scoring, we’re getting opportunities for rebounds [and free throws].
“They did a real good job of that in the second, third and fourth quarters.”
Quirion said the Indians’ height advantage was a big help.
“Overall, we’re a pretty good team,” said the 5-foot-10-inch Quirion. “[Height] definitely gave us an advantage.”
In addition to Quirion, junior center/forward Morgan Buker is 6-1 and senior forwards Adriana Martineau and Chelsey Whittemore are 5-9.
Brewer senior center Morgan Small is the only player that can match any of those four.
Senior guard Houp topped Brewer (4-2) with 11 points and Small posted nine points.
“We expected a rough game. Coach told us they’d be physical,” said Small. “We didn’t realize just how physical it was going to be, and we didn’t box out.”
The Indians’ press forced the Witches into 15 turnovers in the first half. The Indians turned the ball over six times in the first quarter, but they only had five more in the last three quarters.
“I think the kids are learning if they play defense, they can compete. If they don’t, they can’t,” said Cowan.
The Witches tried to make a couple of runs, one in the second quarter and one in the third, but the Indians kept the pressure on and pulled away each time.
“I thought we got a little run to cut it down to six in the second quarter, then we had a couple of possession breakdowns and they pushed it back to 10,” said Nickerson. “The same thing in the third., we cut it to 10 and then we had the breakdowns and they pushed it up to 15.”
A pair of Small baskets trimmed the margin to 19-13 with 1:39 left in the first half, but Quirion and Taylor Johnson (7 points) closed the half with hoops for Skowhegan.
The Indians added a Malloy 3-pointer and a Buker basket to start the third. Brewer’s Maddy Bailey hit a 3 to slow the Indians’ surge, but Skowhegan added layups by Natasha Thompson and Quirion to push its lead to 32-16.
A Houp free throw and basket and Small 3-pointer brought it to 10 at 32-22, only to have the Indians go on a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach.
“It’s just one game,” said Nickerson. “We’ll focus now on our game Friday [at Edward Little of Auburn].”