HOULTON, Maine — Stearns coach Nick Cullen was hopeful his girls basketball team could pull off the preliminary round upset victory Tuesday against Houlton and the Minutemen did precisely that.
Showcasing a strong shooting performance from sisters Katherine Alley and Alisyn Alley, No. 9 Stearns of Millinocket beat No. 8 Houlton 50-32 in a Class C North prelim.
Stearns (15-4) advances to face No. 1 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill (15-3) in the quarterfinals at 3:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the Cross Insurance Center.
Katherine Alley, a 5-foot, 6-inch junior, led all players with 19 points, while Alisyn Alley, a 5-7 freshman, chipped in with 15 points for Stearns. Mia Henderson, a 5-10 freshman, paced Houlton (9-10) with 12 points.
“What really benefits us is we have good guard play,” Cullen said. “The Alley girls, I don’t know if you can find any better (guards) in Class C. The rest of the team has also come a long way this year.”
Houlton coach Shawn Graham echoed those sentiments.
“They have two of the best scorers in all of Class C basketball and it showed tonight,” Graham said. “I thought they [the Alley sisters] made some really big shots when they had to.”
Stearns showed remarkable poise on the hardwood in Tuesday’s contest as the team took advantage of Houlton turnovers. The squad also converted 13 of 15 free throws to help ice the game.
“It wasn’t always like this,” coach Cullen said. “It took us some time, but we have really worked on our mental toughness. We are not really deep so we have to pick our moments.”
The biggest moment came in the fourth quarter as Stearns withstood a 7-0 run by the Shires that cut the Minutemen’s lead to 41-32 before closing out the game with a 9-0 run of their own to preserve the victory.
“We gave up 21 points off turnovers and that is not something you can do and be successful in the playoffs,” Graham said.
He added that if someone had told him at the beginning of the season that his squad would be in a position to potentially make it to Bangor, he would consider that a successful season. After all, the Shires lost all but two members of last year’s regional championship squad.
“We have been up and down all year,” he said. “As young as we were, I consider this to be a successful year.”
STEARNS 50, HOULTON 32
Ka. Kenyon 1-2-5, M. Girsa, K. Alley 7-3-19, A. Alley 4-7-15, Robinson 2-0-4, Ke. Kenyon 3-1-7; Totals: 17-13-50
Ewings 3-0-6, Johnson, Graham, M. Henderson 5-2-12, Ivey, Ardell, O. Henderson 2-0-4, Condon, Worthley 2-0-5, Buzzeo 0-1-1, Barton, Howe 1-2-4; Totals: 13-4-32
Stearns 11 22 36 50
Houlton 9 17 25 32
3-pt goals: K. Alley 2, Ka. Kenyon; Worthley