BANGOR, Maine — The defending two-time state champion Houlton High School Shiretowners were clinging to a one-point lead with 2:25 remaining in the Class B North championship after the determined Foxcroft Academy Ponies had rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit.
But junior forward Aspen Flewelling’s open 3-pointer from the right side gave Houlton some critical breathing room and the Shires went on to post a 42-31 win at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday.
Top seed Houlton (20-1) will play South champion Gray-New Gloucester (20-1) in Friday’s 6:05 p.m. state final at the Augusta Civic Center.
No. 3 Foxcroft wound up 16-5.
Foxcroft Academy coach Blake Smith called Flewelling’s 3-pointer a “tide-turner.”
“That was important for them,” agreed Foxcroft senior forward Abigail Simpson. “She’s really good with 3-point shots. When she’s wide open, she can make them.”
“We ran one of our set plays. It’s either Kolleen for three or me. I was open so Kolleen passed it to me and it worked out,” said Flewelling. “We had set a double screen right before.”
Houlton coach Shawn Graham explained that the two options on the play were to have Bouchard take it to the rim or, if the Foxcroft defenders collapsed on her, “kick it out to Flewelling on the weak side.”
FA then missed a layup and Bouchard rebounded it and was eventually fouled.
She sank two free throws with 1:17 left and, following a Ponies turnover, Emma Peterson sank two clinching free throws with 1:05 left before converting a layup off a Bouchard pass.
The Shires built a 27-17 lead with four minutes left in the third period but the Ponies closed out the quarter with an 8-2 run as Grace Bickford hit a traditional three-point play off her steal and layup and added a free throw later in the run and Simpson hit a pair of jumpers from the paint.
The Ponies fed off that momentum with a 6-3 spurt to open the fourth quarter as Alli Bourget hit a four-foot jumper off a Kendra Ewer steal and pass; Ewer fed Simpson for a six-foot hook shot and Ewer picked up another assist when she passed to Mackenzie Beaudry for a short baseline jumper to make it 32-31.
Foxcroft had a chance to take its first lead of the game but missed a short jump shot and Bouchard rebounded before passing to Flewelling for her vital 3-pointer.
The Ponies shot just 22 percent from the floor (13-for-59) as Houlton used a 2-3 zone before switching over to player-to-player in the fourth quarter.
“We played real good, aggressive defense,” said Bouchard. “We focused mostly on trying to keep their post players out of it. That’s their game. By doing that, they had to make those (outside) shots.”
“We had open looks but they just weren’t falling for us today,” said Foxcroft senior guard Bickford.
Bouchard finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Houlton. Rylee Warman had eight points, Flewelling wound up with six points and four rebounds, Makala Watson had five points and six rebounds and Peterson contributed four points and three rebounds.
Bickford finished with nine points and six rebounds for the Ponies. Ewer had eight points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Simpson had six points and five rebounds and Alli Bourget wound up with four points, three rebounds and two assists. Beaudry had four rebounds and two blocks to go with two points.
Emily Mikoud gave FA a big lift off the bench as she pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and also did a nice job defending Bouchard.
Houlton shot 32.3 percent from the floor (10-for-31) and 77.3 percent from the foul line (17-for-22) while the Ponies went 2-for-7 from the free throw line to go with their 22 percent shooting from the floor.