BANGOR, Maine — The zone defense sometimes is seen as a sign of passivity, as a means of hiding individual weaknesses.

But the 2-3 zone employed by the Central Aroostook of Mars Hill girls basketball team Thursday evening was anything but passive.

The top-ranked Panthers denied Bangor Christian easy shots near the basket and shut down the Patriots’ 3-point shooting threats while pulling away to a 44-29 victory in an Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinal at the Bangor Auditorium.

“We knew we had to be really quick with our defense, because if we gave them two extra seconds they’d get the shots off,” said CAHS senior Chelsea Hartin a 5-foot-4 guard who scored just three points but grabbed nine rebounds.

“Really what we had to do was talk and let each other know when people were cutting across the baseline, and make sure we knew where everyone was on the court so we’d have everybody covered.”

The win was the 18th straight for Central Aroostook since its 0-2 start, and the Panthers now will face No. 2 Fort Fairfield in Saturday morning’s EM final.

No. 5 Bangor Christian ended its season with a 16-4 record.

Central Aroostook entered the game chiefly concerned about Bangor Christian guard Whitney Holmes, who scored 26 points in her team’s quarterfinal win over Washburn.

But the Panthers perimeter quickness was too much for the Patriots, holding them to 2 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc — the only makes were Bangor Christian’s final two baskets of the game — while limiting Holmes to four points.

“Usually our defense is our strong point,” said CAHS sophomore forward Victoria McIntyre. “We knew they had some good shooters, so we had to step out on them, play our best defense and leave anything on the floor.

The 5-foot-8 McIntyre also was an offensive catalyst for coach Rodney Codrey’s club, driving to the basket frequently en route to a game-high 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field.

“I like driving, and it’s fun when you get an and-one, that’s a confidence booster,” said McIntyre, who also grabbed eight rebounds. “They were stepping out on Rachael [Grew] and the Hartin twins [Chelsea and Brianna] for the 3-point shots and kind of left the middle open.”

Grew added nine points and Kristen Long eight, including six in the first quarter as Central Aroostook took 10-6 lead.

Bangor Christian rallied within 14-13 as Meredith Bean converted a three-point play and later scored on an offensive rebound, but Central Aroostook countered with the final six points of the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Grew and a three-point play by McIntyre to take a 20-13 halftime lead.

McIntyre scored nine points in the third quarter as the Panthers steadily extended their lead. A 3-pointer by Chelsea Hartin in the final minute of the period gave Central Aroostook a 32-21 lead to take into the fourth quarter, and Bangor Christian got no closer than 11 the rest of the way.

Emma Johnson led Bangor Christian with 10 points, while Bean added nine points and seven rebounds.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...