AUGUSTA, Maine — Mia Diplock got off to a sluggish start Friday night, as the Miss Basketball semifinalist managed just two first-half points and six points through three quarters of the Eastern Maine Class A girls basketball final.
But the Cony High School senior guard, also the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A South player of the year, couldn’t have had a stronger finish, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter as the top-ranked and undefeated Rams rallied past No. 2 Edward Little of Auburn 44-41 at the Augusta Civic Center.
The regional title is the first for Cony since winning the 2007 state championship, a feat coach Karen Magnusson’s club (21-0) will have a chance to accomplish next Saturday when they face the Western A survivor at 4 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
Edward Little, which was seeking its first EM championship, ended its season with a 17-4 record — with three of the losses coming against Cony.
Diplock finished with a game-high 17 points for Cony, including the final go-ahead basket on a feed from Josie Lee that gave the Rams a 42-41 lead with 39 seconds remaining.
Diplock subsequently was named winner of the Bob Whytock Award symbolic of the tournament’s outstanding player-sportsman.
Josie Lee added seven points for the Rams, while Julie Arbour and Emily Quirion scored six points each.
Kory Norcross scored 16 points and Tianna Harriman added 11 for Edward Little, but neither scored after intermission as Cony stepped up its perimeter defense against a Red Eddies’ squad that had made six 3-pointers in the first half and held Edward Little to just 11 second-half points.
Cony also limited Edward Little’s top scorer, junior guard Ashlee Arnold, to three points on a single 3-pointer in the first quarter.
Cony trailed by 11 at intermission and spotted Edward Little a Cristina Lewis basket that stretched the margin to 32-19 in the opening moment of the third quarter, but Cony then ran off 10 unanswered points to pull within 32-29 on a basket by Melanie Guzman with 2:49 left in the period.
Edward Little took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter, and maintained a 39-34 lead midway through the period.
But Quirion scored on a drive to cut the gap to three, then Diplock scored a layup and a jumper from the low post to give Cony a 40-39 lead with 1:41 left — the Rams’ first advantage since 3-2.
Both teams had several subsequent scoreless possessions before Lewis scored on an inside move to give Edward Little a 41-40 lead with 53 seconds left.
Diplock put Cony ahead to stay on its next possession, then the Rams got the ball back when Diplock and Lee combined to strip Norcross of the ball.
The Red Eddies were forced to foul, but with just three team fouls at that point they couldn’t send Cony to the free-throw line until just 3.5 seconds remained.
Diplock made two insurance free throws, and Edward Little was unable to get off a final desperation shot.
Edward Little tried to shoot Cony out of the building from long range while building a 30-19 lead at the break.
Harriman, a freshman, came off the Red Eddies’ bench to do the damage early, scoring her team’s final eight points of the opening period — including a pair of 3-pointers — to give Edward Little a 15-9 lead at the end of the quarter.
Norcross, a sophomore, then took over in the second quarter, totaling 12 points — including two 3-pointers of her own — as the Red Eddies continued to build their lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers, a free throw and a fast-break layup by Norcross around a free throw by Arbour constituted a 9-2 run that gave Edward Little its biggest lead of the half at 30-15 before the Rams crept back within 11 thanks to an inside basket by Arbour and a steal and layup by Diplock — her only points of the first half.