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The Hermon Hawks seemingly had Wednesday night’s important Class B North schoolgirl matchup with Old Town wrapped up with a 14-point lead and just seven minutes remaining in the game.
But the Hawks needed five critical free throws in the last 56.2 seconds to stave off a furious comeback by the Coyotes and earn a 50-44 victory at Hermon High School.
Hermon improved to 13-1 with its third straight win after a 54-42 loss at Presque Isle while Old Town dropped to 9-5 and had its three-game winning streak snapped.
“Old Town is a tough team. They’re dangerous, they have a lot of weapons,” Hermon coach Chris Cameron said. “We played a very good first half but basketball is a game of runs and we knew they would make a run in the second half.
“They got it down to one and we had to settle down, focus and run our stuff, the stuff that earned us the lead,” Cameron said.
Standout junior guard Hannah Richards scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and sophomore forward Lexi Thibodeau added nine of her 11 as the Coyotes used a 15-2 run to shave a 14-point deficit down to one with three minutes remaining.
“We didn’t rotate very well on defense in the first half and we couldn’t get the ball to fall,” Hannah Richards said.
“We knew we needed to get some stops in the second half, she added, noting that Hermon is bigger and more physical.
But Hermon sophomore center Megan Tracy got the roll on a 12-foot jump shot and Paige Plissey fed Maddie Lebel underneath for a basket with 2:02 left to build the lead to 43-38.
Thibodeau and Richards sandwiched baskets around one by Elizabeth Wyman in the paint off a Sydney Gallop feed to make it 45-42 with 1:08 to go.
But Plissey hit both ends of a one-and-one with 56.2 seconds left and, following an Old Town miss and a Tracy rebound, Tracy was fouled and she sank both free throws to all but sew it up with 35.1 seconds remaining.
Maddie Lebel added another free throw.
“We slowed it down too much,” Plissey said. “We were waiting for a good shot. Our game is to keep the momentum going. We had to speed it up and look inside for our bigs because they can finish.”
Hermon jumped out to a 12-2 lead and led by as many as 17 in the first half before taking a 27-15 lead into the intermission.
The Hawks built the lead to 35-19 in the third period before Richards’ steal and layup and two Madelynn Emerson free throws cut it to 35-23 after three periods..
The 5-foot-11 Tracy paced the Hawks with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. She also handed out two assists. Plissey contributed 10 points, five rebounds, three steals, three blocked shots and two assists.
“Emerson is a lights-out 3-point shooter but Paige’s length affected her,” Cameron said.
Lebel posted six points and five rebounds, Wyman provided six points and four rebounds and Gallop wound up with five points, six rebounds and five assists while also guarding Richards.
“She’s a very good defender. She made me work,” Richards said.
Hermon was without starting senior forward Grace Page who missed the game due to disciplinary reasons. She is still on the team.
Richards had five rebounds to go with her 17 points. Thibodeau wound up with four rebounds to accompany her 11 points. Sydney Loring had six points and nine rebounds for the youthful Coyotes and Emerson finished with six points.