BANGOR, Maine — Houlton High School senior guard Kolleen Bouchard spent time last summer working on a step-back move with her older brother Kyle, who plays at Bentley University in Massachusetts, where she will join him this fall.
It came in handy Saturday night.
The Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist used the move to nail a game-tying 3-pointer from the left side with 24.1 seconds remaining in regulation and her free throw with 2:18 left in overtime broke a 30-30 tie, enabling the top-seeded Shires to survive a stiff test from the youthful Dexter Tigers 33-30 in their Class C North championship game Saturday night at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The 21-0 Shires, the Class B North champ a year ago, play defending Class C state champ Monmouth Academy (20-1) at 7:05 p.m. in Saturday’s state championship game at the Augusta Civic Center. It will be Houlton’s fourth straight state game appearance, two in Class B and two in C.
Bouchard carried her team to the regional title. While her teammates were shooting a dismal 2-for-17 from the floor, she went 9-for-18 and finished with a game-high 27 points and eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for her career.
She is now the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Bouchard picked up assists on the other two baskets by Teagan Ewings and Kristen Graham. Abbie Worthley added a pair of free throws.
Bouchard’s 3-pointer came after Dexter had missed a shot that would have expanded its lead to five.
“I worked on that shot all summer with my brother so it was pretty special I could make it,” said Bouchard, who also had five steals, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I drive a lot so every once in a while, at the end of the game when you’re still down by three, you need a move like that. So I was able to bring it out,” Bouchard added.
“That was a good shot,” said standout Dexter freshman guard Peyton Grant, who poured in a team-high 22 points.
“That was a game-changer,” Houlton coach Shawn Graham said. “Not only did it tie the game, it gave us some confidence and momentum.”
Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation but didn’t convert.
Grant and Bouchard swapped baskets to open the overtime, and Bouchard made one of two free throws to snap the 30-30 tie.
Dexter missed a shot but the hustling Avery Herrick, another freshman, chased the ball down and flipped it to a teammate as she was running out of bounds.
The Tigers had a chance to tie it or go-ahead but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 39.9 seconds left and Bouchard grabbed the rebound.
Bouchard eventually fed a wide-open Ewings in the paint, and she laid it in just before the final whistle to sew it up.
“We definitely had our chances. We should have pulled it off. But things happen. It is what it is,” said Grant, who rallied her team from an eight-point deficit by scoring six points during an 8-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
“We didn’t make enough plays down the stretch in regulation,” said Dexter coach Jody Grant, Peyton’s father. “There were probably some decisions we’d like to have back, even in overtime. We should have fouled them but, being young, sometimes you’ve got to learn how to win.”
The defending regional champion Tigers (17-4) started three freshmen.
“One of the good things about this team is, a lot of nights, teams take Kolleen away a bit and we’ve had some good players step up and make big shots. Tonight, our role players struggled to make shots so we went right to Kolleen and allowed her to take over,” said Graham, who was pleased with his team’s defense.
“I definitely would have given my teammates opportunities but I had a lot of open shots so I took them when I did my moves,” said Bouchard, who was closely guarded but was able to cleverly knife her way through a forest of defenders en route to the basket or hit from the outside.
“I’m taller than them so I was looking to shoot over them,” Bouchard added.
Aspen Flewelling grabbed five rebounds for Houlton and Worthley pulled down four.
Freshman Cheyenne Beem provided six points and five rebounds for Dexter, Becca Batron had four rebounds and Herrick had two steals.
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