Central Aroostook junior Libby Grass knew she had to make up for losing the ball off her foot with 7.5 seconds remaining in a tight game against Fort Fairfield Tuesday morning.
With her team clinging to a three-point lead, Grass jumped the route of a Fort Fairfield pass, stealing the ball and sealing a 45-41 victory for No. 6 Central Aroostook (16-4 overall) in a Class C North quarterfinal.
“I saw her eyes and knew she was going to throw the ball to that spot, so I just jumped it,” Grass said.
Grass, who was the Panthers top scorer with 14 points, stole the ball and was immediately fouled with 2.4 seconds to go. She put the game out of reach making the second of two free throws for the four-point win over No. 3 Fort Fairfield.
Tuesday’s game marked the third time this season that the Panthers had Fort Fairfield’s number on the court. Central Aroostook beat Fort Fairfield twice during the regular season — 61-51 at Fort Fairfield and 50-34 at Mars Hill.
Senior Breann Bradbury chipped in 13 points for Central Aroostook, while junior Maci Beals added nine.
Sophomore Cameryn Ala led the Tigers with nine points, while freshman Kassidy Gorneault and senior Amber Sherwood both had eight.
“These girls have done this [won big games] all year,” Central Aroostook coach Dillon Kingsbury said. “Fort Fairfield played us especially hard today. They made big shot after big shot. Every time we would build a little bit of a lead, they would battle right back.”
Central Aroostook is the only squad to beat Fort Fairfield during the season, but this time around the Tigers did not go quietly. Fort Fairfield rallied to make it a two-point game with 4:22 to play in the final period, and made it a one-point game on a Cammi King-Demerchant layup with 1:14 to play, but could not get over the hump to take the lead.
The Panthers advance to Friday’s semifinal where they will face the winner of No. 2 Dexter vs. No. 7 Narraguagus at 2 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center.
“The girls worked really hard and gave their best effort,” Fort Fairfield coach Larry Gardner said. “We had some chances and you can always play the ‘What if’ game. A bounce here or shot there, who knows? I am very proud of these girls and what they have accomplished this season.”
The Tigers end their season with a 17-3 overall record.