June 23, 2018
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Calais girls edge Mattanawcook Academy to reach EM final; Orono up next

By Dave Barber, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — For the second time this week, Kaylee Johnson found herself at the foul line with the game on the line.

Calais High School’s sophomore guard was nervous.

“I put the [quarterfinal] game behind me and just tried my hardest to make it and do everything that I could,” she said.

Johnson made one free throw with 11.6 seconds left Friday, lifting the No. 1 Blue Devils to a 46-45 Eastern Maine Class C girls semifinal basketball victory over No. 5 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln at the Bangor Auditorium.

“It kind of put my nervousness out of the way after that game the other night. I don’t like blowout games, I like close games — just not this close,” Johnson said.

Coach Dana Redding’s team (20-0) plays No. 3 Orono, a 40-31 winner over Dexter, in Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. title game.

It was Calais’ third win of the season over MA (10-10).

The Blue Devils, who beat Narraguagus 55-54 in the quarterfinals, found a way to win again. They trailed 26-18 at halftime, but outscored the Lynx 22-8 in the third period.

“We came into the locker room at halftime and we just decided that we needed to get fired back up, because we weren’t playing as strong as we can,” said Calais sophomore point guard Maddie McVicar (13 points, 5 assists, 2 steals).

Olivia Smith hit two 3-pointers and scored eight of her nine points in the third as Calais took a 36-30 lead with 1:09 left in the quarter.

“We weren’t hitting early and we went a little smaller and tried to get more pressure,” Redding said.

The Lynx opened the fourth with a 9-3 surge that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Mikaila Bisson (6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Harli Maxwell (11 points) to make it 43-all with 3:42 left.

Calais did not make a basket in the period (0-for-7), but sank six of eight foul shots. MA shot 3-for-12.

Paige Gillespie (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) made two foul shots to put Calais on top 45-43 with 1:26 to play, but the Lynx answered on an inside hoop by Taylor Blood (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) with 29 seconds left.

Johnson (9 points) hit the first of two shots from the foul line to give Calais the lead, then a 3-pointer by MA’s Maxwell missed in the final seconds.

MA shot 5-for-21 in the second half after hitting 57 percent of its shots (12-for-21) in the first half.

“We got the looks we wanted. It just didn’t go in for us, unfortunately,” said MA coach Stephanie Dubay.

In the first game, the Orono Red Riots put together a 16-0 run in the second quarter that powered them to the victory over previously undefeated Dexter.

As important as the scoring run was, Orono coach Jessica Witham gave as much credit to her team’s defensive switch.

After losing to the Tigers twice in the regular season, Orono switched to a zone defense instead of its usual man-to-man.

“The kids bought into it and it worked,” said Witham.

Dexter coach Jody Grant thought his team’s shooting woes were more of a factor.

“We were playing pretty decent defense, but we picked a bad day not to be able to throw the ball in the ocean,” said a dejected Grant.

The Tigers (19-1) shot 2 for 22 from the floor in the second and third periods and were 8 for 55 for the game.

Orono also set out to limit its turnovers after totalling 68 in their first two games with Dexter.

“We [the staff and the players] set a realistic goal of 15 turnovers and that’s what we had,” said Witham.

Senior guard Elea Kass kicked off Orono’s big scoring run with a basket with 7:19 remaining in the first half. She added a 3-pointer midway through, and finished it by hitting the first of two free throws with 1:15 to go until intermission.

The run took the Red Riots from a five-point deficit at 12-7 to a 23-12 lead at halftime.

After the Tigers’ Michaela White opened the second-half scoring with a field goal, Orono went on a 12-6 run that increased the Red Riots’ lead to 35-20 and, more importantly, left only 1:29 on the clock.

“The whole team is excited. People thought this would be more of a rebuilding year,” said Kass. “Even though we’re young [one senior], we work well together.”

Sophomore forward Katie Sypher led Orono with 11 points, freshman playmaker Hannah Clement added eight points and Kass finished with seven.

Senior guard Lauren Crane hit four 3s for Dexter en route to a game-high 13 points, and White posted 10.

Witham was glad her team to put the naysayers behind it.

“Nobody expected us to win except ourselves,” she said.

The third-seeded Red Riots improved to 17-3.

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