A little improvisation never hurts.
Central Aroostook junior guard Maci Beals lobbed an inbounds pass from midcourt to a wide-open Breann Bradbury for a crucial layup with 26 seconds remaining and the sixth-seeded Panthers upset No. 2 Dexter 35-32 in a Class C North girls semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor Friday afternoon.
Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, 17-4, faces top seed Stearns of Millinocket, 18-2, in Saturday 7 p.m. championship game.
Dexter finished at 15-5.
The speedy Beals was supposed to receive a return pass from Bradbury and drive for a layup.
“[Dexter] overplayed it so we changed the plan up a little bit. Maci got the ball to me and I had an open layup,” Bradbury said.
“I told Maci if [Dexter] overplayed it, don’t be afraid to [lob] it to Breann,” said Central Aroostook coach Dillon Kingsbury.
“We needed to do a better job on that inbounds play. And we had some bad turnovers at the end,” said Dexter coach Jody Grant.
Dexter missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.
Central Aroostook trailed 32-31 with three minutes left after Elizabeth Kinney sank two free throws and hit a six-foot baseline runner off a Cheyenne Beem pass.
Dexter rebounded a Panthers miss and patiently moved the ball only to have a traveling violation gave the ball back to Central Aroostook.
The speedy Beals drove the baseline and got a favorable roll on her four-footer to give her team the lead for good with 1:30 to play.
“I got a good look at the rim, I shot it and it went in,” said Beals, whose quickness gave Dexter problems throughout the game. “I like to run the floor.”
Dexter had rallied from a 27-18 deficit in the third quarter to take a 32-31 lead.
“We stuck to our game plan until the very end and we played pretty well,” said the dynamic 5-foot-5 Beals, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“She doesn’t get the credit across the state she deserves,” said Kingsbury.
Junior guard Libby Grass added 12 points, four rebounds and three steals, including an important one in the final 30 seconds. Bradbury added 10 points, nine rebounds and two assists and senior Sydney Garrison did an exceptional defensive job on Dexter scoring leader Peyton Grant, who was held to four second-half points after scoring 12 in the first half.
Grant wound up shooting 6-for-24 from the floor.
“I’m long so I tried to keep my hand in her face and stay with her. I wasn’t aware of anything else,” the 5-foot-8 Garrison said. “[Grant’s] amazing.”
Grant had four rebounds and two steals to go with her game-high 16 points. Kinney had eight points and three rebounds and Beem grabbed six rebounds to go with her two points.