HAMPDEN — Helene Sherburne was admittedly apprehensive at times in the fourth quarter Friday night, but the Hampden Academy junior would’ve made Celtics star Ray Allen a proud man with her free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Sherburne went 6-for-6 from the line in the final eight minutes and was one of four Broncos in double figures as Hampden knocked off Skowhegan 58-48 in an early-season Class A girls basketball showdown.
Coach Chad Bradbury’s team won its third straight to open the season while dealing Skowhegan its first loss to an Eastern Maine foe since the Indians fell to Messalonskee in the regional championship game in 2009.
Skowhegan is now 2-1 on the young season.
Hampden led by as many as 14 in the first half before the Indians came storming back and closed within four entering the fourth quarter, but Skowhegan couldn’t quite catch the resilient Broncos, who never trailed and were led by Julia Snyder’s 14 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots, while Michaela Stephenson had 12 points, Sherburne 11 and Katelyn DeRaps 10.
Allison Redmond’s backdoor layup brought Skowhegan within 45-41 with 5:21 to play, but a Snyder free throw and a deep jumper by DeRaps from the left corner put the Broncos up by eight. Skowhegan got no closer than five as the Broncos salted it away from the foul line behind Sherburne.
“I was pretty nervous, but I got the jitters out. We all played well, it was a good team effort,” said Sherburne, whose perimeter shot from the top of the key stymied another Indian run late in the third quarter.
That was a trend throughout the game, as every time Skowhegan would creep closer, Hampden would find a way to stretch its lead back out.
“We talked about it, you know they’re going to come out with intensity, usually they jump on teams early,” said Bradbury.
It was the Broncos who raced out early, with DeRaps’ one-handed floater in the lane giving Hampden a 13-4 lead just under six minutes into the game.
Hampden then showcased its offensive depth in taking an 11-point lead at halftime, with six different Broncos contributing to a 13-4 run in the second quarter.
But coach Heath Cowan’s Indians eventually grew acclimated to Hampden’s tough ball pressure, and Cheyenne Malloy’s 3-pointer from the right wing ignited a 20-13 third-quarter burst.
“I thought as the game went on their defensive pressure didn’t really affect us the way it did early in the game,” Cowan said. “They did a great job once we got into the flow of the game.”
Bradbury felt that his players weren’t playing with the same intensity early in the second half as they were in the first.
“We had a slight letdown of just the intensity level, we got a little comfortable a couple times,” he said. “I had to call a timeout and re-focus them (and) they responded well.”
Part of that was letting Skowhegan’s top shooters in Malloy and Amanda Johnson get loose on close-outs.
“I think that was it, they set (good) screens and we had to watch the ball-screens,” said Sherburne.
The Broncos also burned the Indians on the second-chance opportunities, with Snyder gathering six offensive rebounds while Hampden had 12 offensive boards overall.
“I think it was because as a team we all boxed out (well),” Snyder said.
The Indians have been riddled with injuries early in the season, with point guard Whitney Jones, who could return in a few weeks, still nursing a broken foot.
“(We had) two freshmen and a sophomore (start) against one of the best teams in Eastern Maine, and to have it to four points with a couple minutes to go, that’s all you can ask for,” Cowan said.
Johnson had 20 points for Skowhegan to lead all scorers.