CARIBOU, Maine — Senior leadership and the poise that often accompanies it proved to be a difference maker for the Caribou Vikings’ girls basketball team on Tuesday night.
With the Vikings trailing by a point after three quarters, Caribou senior guards Searra Herbert and Gabrielle Marquis combined for 19 of their team’s 25 fourth-quarter points in a 53-40 victory over Oceanside of Rockland in a Class B North prelim.
Caribou, the No. 8 seed, ended a five-game losing streak and improved to 9-10. The Vikings advanced to the tournament for the first time since 2011 and will now take on top-ranked Hermon in the quarterfinal round Saturday at 3:05 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Oceanside, ranked ninth, closed out its season with a 9-10 record.
Marquis, who finished with 12 points, sank two free throws and hit a floater on the next possession to put the Vikings up 34-29 with 6:40 remaining, but the Mariners answered with a 12-foot jumper by junior guard Hope Butler and a 3-point field goal from the corner by teammate Raechel Joyce to tie the game.
Then it was Herbert’s turn. With 4:37 left, she drained a 3-pointer from the wing and 30 seconds later was fouled during a rebounding scramble. An ensuing technical foul by Oceanside led to four free throws. Herbert connected on all of them to increase Caribou’s lead to seven and the Mariners never got closer.
“I think after the first half we relaxed more and came out more confident,” said Herbert, who tallied 13 of her game-high 21 points in the final four minutes of the game. “I made those four foul shots and then hit a layup and a foul shot a little later and that kind of boosted my confidence.”
Caribou got off to a hot start, building a 9-3 lead on hoops by Marquis, Paige Espling, Herbert and Taylor Labreck 2:27 into the game, but the Oceanside defense stiffened as the Vikes shooting went cold and the hosts went nearly 10½ minutes without a field goal. That led to a 15-10 lead for Oceanside midway through the second quarter.
Following a time-out, the 6-foot-1 Espling netted a pair of inside baskets to break the drought, but the Mariners still went into intermission up 19-16.
The lead changed hands six times during the third quarter and the early stages of the fourth before Herbert and Marquis took over.
Espling, a sophomore center, finished with 15 points and earned the praise of the Vikings’ first-year coach, Kayla Richards.
“I thought Paige stepped up tonight,” Richards said. “It was a rough game but she didn’t let that bother her. She was going after balls and getting rebounds and she was tougher on the offensive end and that made a big difference for us.”
Joyce and Hannah Moholland paced Oceanside’s balanced offense with 10 and eight points, respectively.