HOULTON, Maine — Through the first half of the season, Houlton coach Shawn Graham wondered if his supporting players would step up if the Shires ever had to play without standout senior Kolleen Bouchard.
Those questions were answered Saturday afternoon as Houlton improved to 7-0 on the season with a 55-45 victory over Central of Corinth.
Bouchard still got her points, as she led all players with 28 points. But what impressed Graham was how well his team responded when Bouchard sat out the equivalent of one full period in the second half due to foul trouble.
Abbie Worthley scored seven points for the Shires, all in the third quarter, while Teagan Ewings and Kristen Graham added six points each.
Sydney Allen poured in 22 points to lead the Red Devils (8-1) and Emilee Cohen added 10.
“The difference in this game was the way my players stepped up when we had to sit Kolleen,” Graham said. “I think Central felt we might fold, so I was really happy to see my players dig down and play with intensity. They showed me a lot of character.”
Central coach Jamie Russell agreed with Graham’s assessment.
“The key was that we actually lost ground when Bouchard went out,” Russell said. “I have to give credit to the Houlton kids because they stayed together, didn’t panic, and played well without her.”
Bouchard picked up her fourth foul with 1:30 to play in the third quarter, with Houlton clinging to a 31-30 lead. Worthley pushed the lead to 33-30 at the end of the period, converting a pair of free throws.
That momentum carried over to start the fourth quarter, as Houlton built a 10-point lead with a 9-2 run, capped off with a Flewelling 3-pointer from the corner.
Central managed to cut that lead to seven at one point, but was never able to get any closer as the Shires sank 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to notch the victory.
Russell added that Houlton’s free-throw shooting was another key. The Shires sank 9 of 12 free throws (75 percent), compared to 6 of 13 (46 percent) for Central.
“We didn’t shoot particularly well from the line tonight and that hurt us,” he said. “I think Houlton had better balance than we did.”
“Central was the best team we have seen so far,” coach Graham added. “They are a very balanced team, with five or six girls that all look to score.”
Central (45): Potvin, Shaw, R. Smith 0-1-1, S. Allen 7-5-22, Campbell, A. Allen 1-0-3, Speed 1-0-3, Cohen 5-0-10, E. Smith 3-0-6, Burns; Totals: 17-6-45
Houlton (55): Ewings 3-0-6, Graham 3-0-6, Bouchard 10-6-28, Solomon 0-1-1, Brown 2-0-4, Worthley 2-2-7, Flewelling 1-0-3; Totals: 21-9-55
Central 9 19 30 45
Houlton 8 22 33 55
3-pt. goals — S. Allen 3, A. Allen, Speed; Bouchard 2, Worthley, Flewelling