ORONO, Maine — The Orono High School girls basketball team avenged its only loss of the season Thursday night, but the Red Riots had to work hard to do so.
Orono rattled off nine unanswered points in the third quarter to build a 37-25 lead and used some clutch free throws in the fourth quarter to hold off a furious rally by Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln and post a 44-38 triumph.
Orono, first place in East C, improved to 15-1 while Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, playing its third game in four nights, fell to 8-8.
Mattanawcook beat Orono 54-50 on Jan. 7.
Junior center Katie Sypher had a game-high 13 points for the Red Riots, and freshman forward Katelyn Richards came off the bench to score eight points, grab six rebounds and hand out four assists, both team-highs.
Senior guard Elea Kass and sophomore guard Hannah Clement had seven points apiece, and Kass had a game-high five steals.
Junior center Kendra Thurlow paced MA with 10 points, a game-high 12 rebounds to go with three steals. Freshman center Sydney Robertson, daughter of former MA and University of Maine standout Curtis Robertson, also had 10 points.
Orono’s full-court pressure was a key factor as the Riots forced the Lynx into numerous turnovers and hurried shots.
The Riots also sank 15 of their 20 free-throw attempts after going 13-for-32 in their loss to MA.
“We’ve worked on our foul shooting. I’ll take 75 percent any day,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham.
“Our girls played hard and they showed heart, but we had tons of turnovers and Orono made its free throws,” said MA coach Stephanie Dubay. “We did what we wanted to do. But we let them get some runs and when they did, it was tough to bounce back from. They’re the number one team for a reason.”
Orono didn’t score a basket in the fourth quarter but survived with five free throws, including two by freshman Brinsley Chasse with 28 seconds remaining to expand the lead to 43-38.
Orono took a 23-17 lead into the intermission thanks to a 14-6 run featuring six points from Sypher and four apiece from Richards and Clement.
The Riots press also forced the youthful Lynx into several turnovers as it did in the third quarter during the 9-0 run. Richards had four points and two assists in the third-quarter run and Kass had four points.
But the Lynx displayed resiliency and determination.
Trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter, the Lynx scored six straight points on a Thurlow jumper, Robertson’s basket from underneath and Robertson’s two free throws with 4:29 remaining.
Kass made a steal and was fouled and converted both free throws with 3:07 left to extend the lead to seven.
Courtney Gordon fed Robertson in the paint for a basket and Thurlow scored off an offensive rebound with 1:00 remaining to make it 41-38.
But Chasse’s free throws sewed up the win.
“Mattanawcook is always a very hard-working team but we worked on our foul shooting and made our foul shots,” said Kass. “Everyone contributed and we had some people step up like Katelyn Richards. She was a monster.”
Dubay said their inexperience contributed to their turnovers.
“Mattanawcook is a very good team. They hustle and have some really good athletes,” said Sypher. “We knew it was going to be a good challenge. We had a hard time shooting at the beginning of the fourth quarter and they were getting some good looks inside. But our defense really helped us stay in it at the end.”
Witham said she was pleased with her bench.
“We have a lot of young kids who work their tails off in practice and I like the fact we can put anybody in and I feel confident they’re going to do well,” said Witham.