BANGOR, Maine — As the Mt. Blue Cougars poured in 3-pointers in the first half of Tuesday night’s game at Red Barry Gymnasium, Bangor girls basketball coach Katie Herbine knew she had to make a change.
“I hesitated going to the 50 defense a little bit,” said Herbine. “That’s our man-to-man.”
She couldn’t afford to let the Cougars keep hitting open 3s, though.
The resulting hounding of the Cougars propelled the Rams to a 55-43 victory.
“I challenged the kids at halftime,” said Herbine. “They answered in the second half.”
Bangor, now 12-3, clamped down and held Mt. Blue (10-5) to a single 3 in the second half, and that came in the first minute-and-a-half of the third quarter.
The Cougars held a 34-27 lead at that point, their biggest of the game.
Mary Butler took charge then, hitting three straight Bangor baskets within a minute and assisting on a Jordan Seekins hoop while Mt. Blue was only able to add a Miranda Nicely field goal.
Bangor’s Sarah Bragg added the last two of her eight points with 4:12 left in the third to put the Rams ahead for good at 37-36.
Bangor pushed the margin to five points at the end of the third and limited Mt. Blue to three points in the final quarter on a free throw in the opening minute and a last-second field goal.
“They threw everything they had at us,” said Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick. “Tonight was their night.”
The Cougars, ranked No. 2 in the Heal points entering the game, fell behind 6-0 before they started hitting 3-pointers on the Rams’ zone defense. Mt. Blue made eight in the first half, including three by Nicely that got their scoring untracked.
Bangor changed to its man-to-man defense in the second half, took the easy 3-point shots away from the Cougars and took Mt. Blue out of its uptempo game.
“We started standing still,” said Philbrick. “We weren’t moving without the ball. I attribute that to Bangor.”
Butler said the Rams’ defense triggers their offense. They play better when they can get into their uptempo game, she said.
“We came out ready [in the second half],” said Butler, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “Our intensity increased as the game went on.”
Seekins posted 11 points for the Rams, and Cordelia Stewart added 10 points and a strong defensive presence under the basket, including back-to-back blocks midway through the fourth. Bragg finished with eight points.
Nicely hit four 3-pointers for Mt. Blue and registered 16 points, and Gabby Foy added 11.
Another bright spot for the Rams was their free-throw shooting, said Butler.
Bangor hit 6 of 7 free throws in the final 1:16 to put the game away. They were 12 of 13 (92 percent) for the game.
“The time and effort we’ve put into it [in practice] have definitely paid off,” she said.
Herbine pointed to Butler’s rebounding as well as her and Stewart’s efforts on both ends of the floor.
“When Mary and Cordelia are working well together, they’re fun to watch,” she said.