BANGOR, Maine — Both No. 3 Central Aroostook and No. 7 Hodgdon faced scares from lower-seeded teams in Monday morning’s Eastern Maine Class D girls basketball quarterfinals, but each managed to rally in the second half to pull out wins at the Bangor Auditorium and advance to the semifinal round.
The Panthers of Mars Hill held off No. 6 Woodland 34-29, while the Hawks came from behind in the fourth quarter to edge No. 15 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook 39-34. Central Aroostook and Hodgdon will meet at 7:05 p.m. Thursday for a berth in the Eastern Maine final.
In the first game, Central Aroostook’s Victoria McIntyre scored 20 points, including 14 in the second half as the Panthers came back from a one-point halftime deficit against the Dragons. The senior forward scored a fast-break basket 42 seconds into the period to put the Panthers ahead. After a Rachel Grew 3-pointer, McIntyre scored later in the quarter and then hit a 3-pointer of her own to give Central Aroostook a 21-14 lead.
Woodland refused to quit in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to three when senior standout Taylor Cochran converted a conventional 3-point play with about 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game. But on the next play, McIntyre knocked down another 3-pointer to regain momentum.
“We needed to keep taking it to them and not let the other team get pumped up and let them back in, said CAHS coach Stori Shaw. “We really pulled it together.”
The Panthers played a 3-2 zone defense, limiting the 5-foot-9 forward Cochran to five points and 5-10 forward Ebonica Newman to two points.
“The problem we had with the zone was that we weren’t rotating the ball,” Woodland coach Arnie Clark said. “We had no ball movement on the offensive end and that really hurt us, especially early in the first quarter.”
Kayla Cushman chipped in with seven points for the Panthers. Whitney Bassett led Woodland with 10 points, and Cochran had nine rebounds.
In the second game, although the Hawks had beaten the Warriors twice in the regular season, Hodgdon was wary of SAHS, which upset No. 2 Fort Fairfield in the preliminary round.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we knew it would be even harder [at the auditorium] with the atmosphere,” said Hodgdon guard Mariah Wiley, who scored 19 points, including the eventual game-winning basket with 1:36 left in the game. “We knew that they were playing well. We just had to pull out the win.”
The Warriors led 19-15 at halftime, but Wiley scored seven points in the third quarter and Maya Gardiner’s mid-range jumper with 7.4 seconds left in the third gave the Hawks a 26-24 lead. There were two ties and four lead changes in the intense final quarter before Wiley’s jump shot from just inside the 3-point arc made it 35-34 and sealed the win.
“My teammates do such a good job setting screens for each and other and that really opened me up,” Wiley said.
The Warriors struggled against Hodgdon’s man-to-man pressure defense and had 35 turnovers, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve dealt with that most of the season,” Southern Aroostook coach Harris Tucker said. “We usually struggle with breaking the press. We have worked on it in practice and I think we got better. We just have to keep our composure. But we’re only losing one senior, so I think we’ll be in great shape for next year.”
Jennah Steamer added 10 points for Hodgdon. Kristen Tarr had a team-high 11 points for Southern Aroostook and Sable Altvater had 11 rebounds.