June 21, 2018
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Dexter, Orono advance to Eastern Maine basketball semifinals, survive upset attempts

By Jesse Scardina, Special to the BDN

BANGOR, Maine — Although both games came down to the wire, No. 2 Dexter and No. 3 Orono safely advanced to the semifinals in Eastern Maine Class C girls basketball quarterfinals Tuesday morning at the Bangor Auditorium.

It took overtime, but the Orono Red Riots survived an upset attempt by No. 11 Piscataquis, winning 45-40. Dexter (19-0) held off No. 7 Sumner of East Sullivan (12-8) 38-33 in the morning’s second game.

“What can you say, when you haven’t been here as long as we had, and you face a team like Orono who’s here every year and push them to the limit,” Piscataquis coach Brian Gaw said of his team’s performance.

Orono worked from the start of the game to get the ball into senior Jillian Woodward, daughter of University of Maine men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward. The 6-foot center was the catalyst for the Red Riots, scoring 12 of Orono’s 22 first-half points. Woodward finished with 16 points.

“[Woodward’s] a tough cover,” Gaw said. “They do a good job to get her a little space to catch the ball and she can finish over either shoulder.”

Piscataquis kept the game close in the first half by forcing turnovers and spreading the scoring out. Sophomore guard Alex Speed was able to penetrate into the paint, scoring six first-half points to lead the Pirates. Speed finished with a team-high 16 points.

The Red Riots expanded their lead in the third quarter, behind junior guard Elea Kass’ 10 third-quarter points, including two 3-pointers. Kass finished with 15 points.

A fourth-quarter comeback by Piscataquis forced the game into overtime, as the Pirates allowed just four fourth-quarter points.

“We started making a few shots, started making a couple shots,” Gaw said. “The kids fought hard and battled back.”

However, another 3-pointer by Kass in overtime and a couple layups by Woodward sealed the deal, as Orono moved on to the semifinals.

“We’ve been there before,” Orono coach Jessica Witham said about the overtime. “It’s just a clean slate. You just need to worry about the four minutes. Ellie Kass hadn’t really made an outside shot the whole game and in the overtime she makes that big three and set the tone for us.”

In the morning’s second game, Sumner jumped out to an early lead over No. 2 Dexter, thanks to six early points from forward Jordan Merchant.

Dexter fired back in the second quarter, doubling Sumner’s total, 12-6 to take a 19-15 lead into the half. Senior guard Lauren Crane had eight points in the first half, including two 3-pointers.

A tight third quarter kept the game close and Sumner was able to narrow the deficit in the final minutes, but a crucial 3-pointer by Crane gave Dexter a five-point lead. A last-second 3-pointer by Sumner’s Savana Turner made the final score a two-point game, 38-36.

“We tried to share the ball offensively, but we didn’t shoot great,” Dexter coach Jody Grant said. “Lauren’s 3 that she hit late in the quarter gave us a little separation.”

Dexter’s Michaela White led all scorers with 13 points, while Merchant led Sumner with 12 points.

Dexter and Orono will face off Friday at 2:05 p.m. in the Auditorium for a chance to go to Saturday night’s Eastern Maine final.

“We’re going to enjoy this [win],” Grant said. “We’ve played [Orono] a couple times and we’ll have to rebound a lot better than we did today.”

“We’ve played them a couple times before,” Witham said of Dexter. “We’ve had a couple tight games with them.”

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