BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot Valley of Howland outworked and outplayed Boothbay Region in the first half of Saturday night’s Class C girls basketball state final.
The Seahawks turned the tables on the Howlers in the second half, outscoring them 22-10 on their way to a 33-25 victory that ended a 35-year state championship drought for the program.
Glory Blethen, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, scored 10 points and also had four rebounds and two assists for the 22-0 Seahawks. Her 6-1 senior sister Faith Blethen provided nine points, 16 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots and junior guard Chloe Arsenault contributed eight points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Kylie Brown added four important second-half points.
Despite giving away several inches to the Blethen sisters, 5-9 junior center Lexi Ireland turned in an outstanding performance for the 18-5 Howlers with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds. But sophomore guard Emily St. Cyr was the only other Penobscot Valley player to score as she had seven points.
Junior guard Leine McKechnie hauled down seven rebounds and guard Judy King, the Howlers’ only senior starter, had two assists and turned in an excellent defensive effort against Faith Blethen in their 1-3-1 zone.
PVHS led by as many as nine points in the first quarter but wound up scoring only four baskets over the final three periods. PVHS shot a dismal 4-for-16 from the foul line in the contest.
The Howlers led 15-11 at intermission despite being held to two points in the second quarter. They did an exceptional job boxing out and working hard in the first half, outrebounding the taller Seahawks 16-8.
But Boothbay took control of the boards in the second half with a 19-9 advantage and that led to several second-chance points and extended possessions.
“In the locker room at halftime, we said we weren’t going to get outworked in the second half,” said Faith Blethen, who will continue her basketball career at Division I George Washington University.
She said being outrebounded 16-8 in the first half isn’t Boothbay basketball.
“We knew rebounding would be a key,” Brown said. “We couldn’t let them get any second shots [in the second half] so we boxed out, we found our players.”
“I think we did a good job boxing out in the first half but we got a little tired in the second half and were sloppy at times [boxing out],” Ireland said. “It hurt us.”
Arsenault’s steal and layup to close out the first half finished off a 7-2 run that pulled the Seahawks within four.
After Ireland’s basket off a nice spin move opened the second half, the Seahawks responded with 9-0 run to take the lead.
Glory Blethen had a basket off her sister’s pass and added a free throw, Faith Blethen hit a 12-foot jumper and the Seahawks received two free throws from Ashley Abbott and a bucket by Brown.
Ireland scored PVHS’ last five points of the quarter to bring the Howlers within two, but Brown and Arsenault came up big in the fourth quarter. Brown got the roll on an eight-foot baseline jumper and Arsenault converted an offensive rebound off a Faith Blethen miss to extend the lead to 28-22.
Two missed Howler free throws followed by two Ireland foul shots made it 28-24 but another Howler miss on a front end of a one-and-one was costly and Faith Blethen made them pay with a pull-up jumper with 2:48 to go.
Ireland sank a free throw 24 seconds later, but that would be PVHS’ final point.
Glory Blethen made a free throw with 1:57 left and Brown snared a vital offensive rebound when she missed her second one.
Arsenault made an important steal with 1:30 remaining and Glory Blethen added some clinching free throws.
Blethen called Penobscot Valley a good team and credited King for the defensive job she did on her.
“I had a very difficult time,” Faith Blethen said.
Ireland said the Howlers played pretty good team defense, especially on the Blethen sisters, “but we didn’t expect the other players to hurt us as much as they did. They stepped up.”
PVHS coach Nate Case said his team’s second-half rebounding and free-throw shooting did it in.
“Not to take anything away from Boothbay, they’re a heck of a team, but we let the game get away from us. Free-throw shooting has been a [weakness] of ours all year,” said Case.