AUGUSTA, Maine — They say all any coach can ask for is to have the ball with a chance to tie or win the game at the end.
The No. 3 Old Orchard Beach girls basketball team had its chances in the final 30 seconds of Tuesday’s Class C South quarterfinal game, but the Lady Gulls were not able to cash in as they dropped a 33-30 heartbreaker to No. 6 Richmond at the Augusta Civic Center.
The first chance for the Lady Gulls came with under 20 seconds left and Richmond clinging to a 31-30 lead. OOB’s Kaitlyn Cote tried to drive to the basket and put up a shot in a crowd. The ball was blocked and Cote went to the floor, but the senior guard didn’t get the call.
“Tough no call on that one, but I don’t think we got many calls in the fourth quarter … no excuses, but when you don’t get to the line it makes a difference,” said OOB coach Dean Plante. “I thought Kaitlyn should have gone to the line on that one, she got hit pretty good. At the same time, offensively we didn’t execute like we needed to in the second half.”
Richmond would go to the line and hit both with 12 seconds left to go up by three — but the Lady Gulls still had a chance to tie.
OOB would set up a play to try and get sharp-shooting senior Bri Plante open behind the arc, but the pass across the court would sail and go out of bounds.
“We had a nice screen for Bri and she was open, but we just didn’t get the reversal there. The skip pass was long, so I guess it was well defended. She was open, we just didn’t get her the ball,” said coach Plante.
The Lady Gulls opened the game strong as they got 3-pointers from Sam Donnell and Bri Plante in the first quarter to take a 12-6 lead into the second.
Richmond started the second on a 6-0 run to tie the game, but OOB responded with an 8-2 stretch to take a 20-14 advantage into the break.
OOB continued to play solid defense in the second half, but the Lady Gulls were held to just four points in the third quarter and six in the final frame.
“We just didn’t make baskets. When you get up here sometimes kids get tight. Some kids that normally scored for us didn’t, but I thought the kids worked really hard,” said Dean Plante, who saw his team get outscored 19-10 in the second half. “If you lose and you give up 33 points it’s on your offense. It’s just one of those days, especially in the second half — we had a couple good looks, they didn’t fall. (We) had a couple of no calls down the stretch that I thought maybe we should have had and it adds up at the end.”
One area where Richmond had success was in limiting the Lady Gulls’ offense in the paint.
“Meg LaPlante I thought played really well … she battled,” said coach Plante on the senior forward who finished with four points. “Maggie Strohm never got into a flow because of fouls. It helps when you have both bigs, but credit them, they did a good job of taking Maggie out of it. They were physical with her and got away with it.”
Plante tried to get his understandably disappointed team to realize how successful their season really was.
“I just told them, ‘you look at the last game as opposed to the big picture right now, so it hurts,’ but they had a heck of a season, 16-4, and they have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Plante. “It was a fantastic year and the kids proved themselves.”
Bri Plante led OOB with nine points. Shani Plante added seven and both Megan Niedzwiecki and Donnell added three. Richmond was led by Brianne Lancaster with 13 points and Sydney Tilton with nine points.
The Lady Gulls will lose Bri Plante, Cote, Niedzwiecki and LaPlante to graduation. Dean Plante was quick to praise the group of seniors who have meant so much to the OOB program.
“Bri has been a four-year starter, contributor, so she just brings composure and consistency. Meg LaPlante just gets better and better ever year, and the other two may be the most improved from their freshman year until now,” said coach Plante. “They just epitomize what you want in a program. You want kids to buy in and you see the results from freshman to senior year, so absolute kudos to those four seniors. They were great.”
OOB will have to replace a ton of firepower but the longtime coach is confident his team will be back in the hunt next season.
“We’ll be very relevant next year, again. Our feeder program is in great shape. We have three or four kids who saw a ton of time this year and some kids that were champing at the bit to get in,” said Dean Plante. “We have a good chunk of kids back, so we will be relevant and we will be here again.”
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