BANGOR, Maine — The defending Eastern Maine Class C champion Calais girls basketball team had struggled to a pair of close regular-season victories over Down East rival Washington Academy of East Machias.
But the top-ranked Blue Devils made the requisite adjustments Tuesday and steadily pulled away to a 55-35 victory over ninth-seeded Washington Academy in their regional quarterfinal at the Cross Insurance Center.
The win advances coach Dana Redding’s club (17-2) to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. semifinal against No. 5 Houlton, which advanced with a 38-36 victory over No. 4 Dexter.
“We got out on them a little better defensively than the first two times we played them,” said Redding. “We didn’t give them the chance to shoot the threes that I know they wanted to. I liked our defense, it was aggressive early, and when you dig a hole like that, it’s tough to come back.”
Washington Academy (8-12) shot 12 of 39 from the field (31 percent) overall and 4 of 14 (29 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We emphasized getting out on their shooters,” said junior guard Madison McVicar. “We know who they are because we’ve played them multiple times throughout the season and summer.”
McVicar sparked Calais’ transition offense, scoring a game-high 18 points, including 10 points during the first quarter as the Blue Devils built a 17-9 lead. She said the Blue Devils found the 94-foot Cross Center court — 10 feet longer than the regulation high school court — to their liking.
“The bigger floor let us get out and run more,” she said. “We had more space to run in, and it just made it easier for us because we love to run.”
Mallory Black and Kaylee Johnson added 10 points apiece, and Kaitlyn Cundiff scored nine for Calais, which also outrebounded Washington Academy 37-20 as 5-foot-11-inch senior Paige Gillespie grabbed a game-high 12 boards.
Logan Hutchins led Washington Academy with 12 points, while Lauren Raye added nine.
Washington Academy held a 5-4 lead midway through the first quarter before Cundiff scored four points, and McVicar followed with a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer for a 9-0 run that gave Calais the lead for good.
The Blue Devils’ halftime advantage was 29-22. Washington Academy remained within seven points at 36-29 on a three-point play by Raye with 3:38 left in the third quarter before Calais went on an 11-0 run to put the game away.
“We’ve been here for a few years so some of the girls do have that experience,” said Redding, “and this was good because hopefully the younger kids will get a little experience, too.”
The opening game of the afternoon session went down to the final possession.
Houlton was clinging to a two-point lead when Dexter inbounded the ball in its frontcourt with 9.7 seconds left.
The Tigers worked the ball into the right corner, where junior guard Michaela White faked a pass to free herself for a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and fell to the hardwood as time expired.
“We felt they wanted to get the ball inside, and we also were vulnerable to the the 3-point shot, so we went to a 1-3-1 out of the timeout,” said Houlton coach Shawn Graham. “But the rotation was not there, and we were fortunate. There was some confusion, but it worked out.”
Dexter had rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit in part behind the 3-point shooting of Tasha Pratt and Abbey Jordan, but the Tigers weren’t necessarily seeking another long-range opportunity during the final seconds.
“We were looking to get the ball inside, but I think they made some adjustments based on what we had been doing,” said Dexter coach Jody Grant. “We talked in the timeout about if we got the ball in the paint, great, but if the 3-pointer presented itself to take it because of the time winding down, and we got a clean look.”
Houlton (13-6) was led offensively by sophomores Natalie Hill and Katie Condon. Hill scored 15 points, 10 in the third quarter as the Shires extended their lead to as much as 35-23. Condon worked inside to score nine of her 13 points in the first half to help stake Houlton to a 23-15 lead.
Abbie Melvin led 13-6 Dexter with 10 points, while Pratt scored nine points, Jordan had seven points and 6-1 freshman center Megan Peach contributed six points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.