BANGOR, Maine — Defending three-time state Class D basketball champion Washburn High School wanted to take control of its Eastern Maine Class D girls basketball title game against Van Buren right from the opening whistle.
With a relentless full-court pressure, the Beavers created numerous turnovers leading to easy points that fueled a 20-2 first-quarter run toward a 74-51 triumph.
Washburn (20-2), winners of 15 straight, will next take on Western Maine winner Forest Hills of Jackman for the state title on Saturday in Augusta.
Winner of 83 of its last 88 games, Washburn set a Class D tournament record with 232 points.
“We wanted to come out with a lot of pressure and make sure we rattled them so we could get our points [off transition],” said Washburn senior center Carsyn Koch.
“We knew we had to put pressure on them. We’re very quick, and we love to run. Our press is what wins games for us,” said senior forward Nicole Olson, who had the hot hand in the first half as she poured in 17 points thanks to a 5-for-7 performance from beyond the 3-point arc.
Olson had four 3-pointers from around the top of the key during the 20-2 run that gave the Beavers a 24-6 lead after the first eight minutes.
“I was hitting my shots during warm-ups, and thanks to the rebounding of my girls, I got plenty of shots off during the game, and I was able to hit them,” said Olson.
“She was fantastic. She found that shot and took it,” said Koch.
“Nicole doesn’t like to be overlooked. We know she can shoot the ball, so we gave it to her,” said junior guard Mackenzie Worcester, who made the passes to Olson for the four 3-pointers in the first period.
“We gave her too many open looks in our zone,” said dynamic Van Buren senior forward Parise Rossignol, who concluded a brilliant career with 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists. She also set a Class D tourney record with 89 points.
Koch paced a balanced scoring attack with 19 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Worcester contributed 18 points, seven assists and two rebounds, and Olson had three assists and two steals to accompany her 17 points. Carmen Bragg had eight points and six assists, and Joan Overman had eight points and two steals.
Courtney Parent had nine points and four rebounds for Van Buren, and Felisha Bouchard finished with nine points and nine rebounds but missed significant time due to foul trouble. She eventually fouled out. Dumond scored eight points.
Olson’s first 3-pointer broke a 4-4 tie and triggered a 9-0 run.
Koch sank two free throws, Worcester danced through the lane for a layup and then fed Overman for a short baseline jumper.
Parent snapped the run by scoring underneath, but the Beavers closed out the quarter with an 11-0 run featuring three Olson 3-pointers and a Koch layup off a Bragg pass.
Bragg again fed Koch for a layup to open the second quarter and make it 26-6.
Van Buren was able to close out the first half with a 9-2 run that reduced the lead to 43-26, as Rossignol scored five points and passed to Emily Dumond for a basket.
The Crusaders didn’t give up and were able to get within 14 on three occasions with the last time early in the fourth quarter.
But that was as close as they could get.
Rossignol had to work hard for her points as she was guarded by Worcester and often double-teamed.
“Nobody can guard her man-to-man when she has the ball. What we did is double-teamed her when she had the ball. When she gave it up, we looked to pick them up man-to-man, and I tried to deny her the ball,” said Worcester.
“They play unreal defense,” said Rossignol. “And they have unreal athletes. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”