BANGOR, Maine — Machias girls’ basketball coach Brad Prout had a “Hoosiers” moment Monday afternoon, and for good reason.
The Bulldogs hadn’t played in the Bangor Auditorium since 1997, and Prout’s freshman class wasn’t even born the last time Machias won a tourney game in 1995, so you can’t blame the coach for bringing his tape measure from Washington County to the cavernous Auditorium.
“Well I measured to see if the rim was the same height,” Prout jokingly said in reference to the trademark scene at Butler field house in the “Hoosiers’ movie.
One of the aforementioned freshman, Kate Whitney, didn’t disappoint in her Auditorium debut, scoring 20 points as the fifth-ranked Bulldogs earned their first tourney win in a generation with a 53-49 Class D quarterfinal triumph over No. 4 Fort Fairfield.
Machias earns a date with undefeated and top-ranked Washburn, who looked every bit like two-time defending state champions in dispatching No. 8 Limestone 67-44 in the second quarterfinal of the afternoon.
In the early game, the Bulldogs showed no tourney apprehension, rolling out to a 20-11 first-quarter lead over the Tigers thanks to an uptempo attack that had Fort Fairfield on its heels.
Whitney and junior forward Rebecca Lee combined for 11 of those points as the Bulldogs led by as many as 11.
“I was more excited than nervous,” said Whitney. “II was just ready to get out here and play. I’ve been wanting to play here since I was 8, so I was just excited and ready to win.”
Machias contently sat on its lead in the second quarter, and the Tigers took advantage, holding the Bulldogs without a field goal in clawing back to within three (24-21) by halftime, with Sydney Churchill scoring the final five points of the half for Fort Fairfield.
“We just gave her too much room,” said Prout. “But give her credit she knocked down a lot of shots.”
Even though the Tigers kept roaring into the second half, taking the lead on back-to-back layups by Logan Bubar, the Bulldogs were not intimidated, as Whitney canned a 3-pointer and Lee was good on a layup to restore the lead.
After Churchill responded with another bomb from the right wing to give FF at 35-32 lead, the Bulldogs scored the final six points of the third, capped by Whitney’s perimeter shot from the left corner.
Machias never trailed after that, mainly thanks to Whitney’s foul shooting in the fourth quarter, as she hit 4-of-9 from the stripe to keep the Tigers at bay.
“I said I’ve just got to calm down and just focus on making them,” said Whitney.
Fort Fairfield was plagued by turnovers, as it committed nine in the second half while Churchill scored only five fourth-quarter points.
“We were looking for her too, we had a little stretch where we went away from her,” said Tigers coach Larry Gardner. “Machias is a good team.”
Lee finished with 11 points and Tate Dolley 10 for the Bulldogs while Churchill led all scorers with 27 for Fort Fairfield.
The late game was just the first step in Washburn’s quest for a third straight gold ball, and coach Diane Trams’ Beavers took a business-like approach in eliminating an undermanned Limestone club.
Four Washburn players — Carsyn Koch, Carmen Bragg, Mackenzie Worcester and Nicole Olson — cracked double figures in the Beavers’ balanced attack.
Limestone hanged tough in the first half, trailing by only eight at the half, but Washburn’s depth and championship pedigree wore down the Eagles, as the Beavers closed the third quarter on a 15-3 run.
“I just wanted them to be a bit more patient offensively when in transition,” said Trams.
Olson paced the balanced effort with 15 points, while Worcester had 12, Bragg 13 and Koch 11.
“I think that’s how it’s gone for us most of the season,” Trams said. “For the most part we have five, six people that can score, so that’s a strength of ours.”
Melissa Cantafio was Limestone’s lone double-figure scorer with 10 points.