Anyone in the Cross Insurance Center who has watched Dexter play during the last three seasons knew what was going to happen on Tuesday afternoon.
As the Tigers worked the clock in a tie game against Narraguagus, it was a virtual certainty Peyton Grant was going to have the ball with time running out.
Despite the magnitude of the moment, Dexter’s junior guard did not disappoint.
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Grant got the ball, came off a high screen and took a few quick dribbles before lofting a high shot from the top of the key. The ball bounced twice on the rim, then fell through the net as the horn sounded to lift the second-seeded Tigers to a 38-35 Class C North girls quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Narraguagus of Harrington.
“It’s definitely pretty cool,” said Grant, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “It literally hit every spot possible [on the rim]. It was scary.”
Coach Jody Grant’s team (15-4) advances to Friday’s 2 p.m. semifinal against No. 6 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill (16-4), which beat No. 3 Fort Fairfield 45-41 in Tuesday’s first game.
Seventh seed Narraguagus finished the season at 17-3.
In the end, Dexter’s patience and poise won out. The Knights had battled back from a nine-point deficit with a 1-3-1 three-quarter-court press that took a foul-diminished Tigers team out of its rhythm.
Narraguagus, which also used a box-and-one defense in the half-court in an attempt to keep Grant in check, limited Dexter to five points over a span of nine minutes throughout the third and fourth quarters.
“It’s hard when we don’t see that very often. We don’t see press a lot, especially trapping,” said Dexter junior Cheyenne Beem, who contributed nine points and six rebounds.
That enabled ’Guagus to eventually turn a 27-18 deficit early in the third quarter into a 32-29 advantage.
Knights senior Kaci Alley (11 points, 8 rebounds) and junior Anna Strout (10 points, 6 rebounds) were the offensive catalysts during the 14-2 run. The scrappy Alley scored twice from inside and senior Emma Redimarker (11 points) sank two free throws early in the fourth quarter to give Narraguagus a 32-29 lead with 5:44 to play.
The Tigers responded, earning four trips to the foul line against the Knight’s scrambling defensive efforts. Senior Chloe Mountain made three of three from the line during a 6-1 run that gave Dexter a 35-33 lead with 1:34 to play.
“We kind of just kept stemming the tide,” Jody Grant said.
The Knights responded with two Redimarker foul shots at the 1:23 mark, setting up the late-game scenario.
Coach Grant said he did not decide to hold for the last shot before waiting to see what would transpire in the meantime. With 30 seconds left, the decision was made.
“Usually we have our time-and-score situation where we wait and it’s the last 10 seconds and then it’s ‘Peyton, go get the ball and try to score,’” Beem said.