Young Skowhegan uses defense to fend off Oceanside in Class A girls quarterfinal

Posted Feb. 17, 2017, at 6:58 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 17, 2017, at 8:13 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Offense was hard to come by for the Skowhegan girls basketball team during the first half of its Class A North quarterfinal against Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston late Friday afternoon.

So the youthful Indians turned to their defense, and the offense followed.

Second-ranked Skowhegan limited No. 10 Oceanside to 13 points after intermission and thwarted the Mariners’ bid for a second straight postseason upset with a 50-41 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.

Coach Mike LeBlanc’s Indians (15-4) will face No. 3 Nokomis of Newport in Wednesday’s semifinals. Nokomis topped No. 6 Camden Hills of Rockport 55-41 earlier Friday.

Oceanside, which knocked off No. 7 Waterville in the prelims, finished 8-12.

Skowhegan, a seniorless team with eight sophomores and three freshmen on its 12-player roster, got 13 points apiece from sophomores Annie Cooke and Mariah Dunbar, with Cooke largely working inside while Dunbar had three of her team’s six 3-point goals.

Another sophomore, Alyssa Everett, added nine points for the Indians, and freshman Emma Duffy scored eight.

Oceanside played the role of spoiler to near perfection through halftime, its quickness frustrating Skowhegan defensively while its offense featured a mix of inside play from Sara Dorr and Alexis Mazurek (10 points) and perimeter scoring from Hope Butler (11 points) and Gabby Simmons (nine).

“We knew they would try to get the ball to the post, and we knew Simmons and Butler were good outside shooters, and that if we left them open, they’d drain them all day,” said LeBlanc. “I think they shot a little better than we expected in the first half, and I reminded the girls at halftime that I didn’t think they were going to shoot that well in the second half.

“We picked up the intensity level a little bit, and it worked out for us,” he said.

Skowhegan applied relentless full-court pressure after the break, forcing 11 Oceanside turnovers during the third quarter alone while outscoring the Mariners 21-6 to take a 41-34 lead at the end of the period.

“They get after it,” said LeBlanc of his team’s defensive effort. “They work hard, and I’ve worked the living heck out of them all season. We do a lot of conditioning drills, and it showed.”

Two free throws by Mazurek 16 seconds into the fourth quarter pulled Oceanside within 41-36, but 3-pointers by Duffy and Dunbar soon stretched the Skowhegan lead back to 47-38 while the Mariners went the game’s final four minutes without another field goal.

“They like to keep things interesting for me, we joke about that,” said LeBlanc of his band of underclassmen. “They were all there last night at the boys game [Skowhegan edged Brewer in double overtime in a Class A boys prelim], and I reminded them that I’d have a coronary if they did that to me.”

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