BANGOR, Maine — Following his team’s 40-33 Class C North quarterfinal win over Stearns High School of Millinocket on Tuesday night, first-year Central High School girls basketball coach Jamie Russell said a coach once told him if you go to the tournament “and play an ugly one, make sure you win it.”
That was the case as his fifth-seeded Red Devils found themselves trailing No. 4 Stearns 19-18 at the intermission after shooting 7-for-22 in the half.
But the Red Devils scored the first eight points of the second half and used a 6-2 run to close out the third period and build a 31-23 lead.
Stearns couldn’t get any close than six the rest of the way.
Central will play the Houlton-Piscataquis Community High of Guilford winner in Friday’s 3:35 p.m. semifinal.
“We made an adjustment on our press at halftime and pushed it (further up the court) in the second half. That helped,” said Central senior guard Sydney Allen, who paced 18-2 Central with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“The press was the difference,” said Russell. “It wore them down. We didn’t force a lot of turnovers but it forced them to take some quick shots.
“We were more patient in our offense and we did a better job boxing out on the offensive and defensive boards,” said Central sophomore center Emilee Cohen, who had seven rebounds to go with six points.
“We just couldn’t make any shots,” said Stearns coach Nick Cullen. “We missed three or four layups and some short jumpers off inbounds plays.”
Stearns, which wound up 16-4, shot 33 percent from the floor (13-for-39).
Allen did an exceptional job on Stearns sophomore guard and leading scorer Katherine Alley. Alley, who was averaging 17 points per game, was limited to eight.
“She’s right-handed so I just tried to make her go left,” said Allen, who is a tenacious defender and will take her talents to Bangor’s Husson University in the fall.
“She did a nice job,” said Cullen. “She’s strong, she’s physical. She’s the real deal. I can see why Husson wanted her.”
Rachael Smith had seven points and seven rebounds for Central and Abigail Allen, Sydney’s sister, had seven points, four rebounds and five steals. Emily Smith had five points and six rebounds.
Peighton Ingersoll paced Stearns with 10 points and five rebounds. Julia Stanley had nine points and seven rebounds. Alley had three rebounds to go with her eight points and Annalys Ugorji had six rebounds.