KENTS HILL — Pressure mounted in multiple ways when No. 10 St. Dominic Academy and No. 7 Kents Hill School met in a Class C South girls’ basketball preliminary round game Tuesday.
The visiting Saints unleashed a full-court pressure that kept the Huskies to just 15 first-half points, but the hosts then put the pressure back on St. Dom’s when they beat the press and took a lead in the third quarter.
The Saints handled the playoff pressure better at the end of the contest to rally from the lost lead and hold on for a 53-48 victory at Jean Gannett Hawley Gymnasium.
The Saints’ (11-8) lead was a modest 10-6 after one quarter, but the press worked its magic in the second. Turnovers by the Huskies (13-6) turned into easy buckets for St. Dom’s, which extended its lead to 27-15 by halftime.
“I thought the second quarter they were able to speed us up,” Huskies coach Luke Wamboldt said. “We started getting a little anxious, we weren’t coming to passes.”
The Huskies found a way to break the press after halftime, and opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run to draw within 29-28.
“We didn’t panic,” Wamboldt said. “We said, ‘We’re down 12, but let’s just go possession by possession and try to win each one,’ and they made a great run.”
“In the first half I think we were playing not really thinking, just working,” Saints coach Chris Marston said. “And then once fouls started being called, we started evaluating what was happening, kids pick up foul trouble so they were a little more hesitant on a rotation that they weren’t in the first half, so it created more passing lanes.
“Kents Hill was in the right spots. So they find windows and they can then beat our pressure.”
Tiffany McGhie, a tall senior, helped the Huskies when she was on the floor. McGhie ran into foul trouble early in the game, though, and didn’t score her first points until two minutes into the second quarter. But she had nine in the third to help pace Kents Hill.
“She’s a big, strong kid. One of the biggest, strongest kids that we face that can also handle the ball like that,” Marston said. “Just her presence in the middle, being able to shield kids, especially kids that were hesitating, not want to fight through the body to deny that middle entry to her. She was the physical presence that allowed them to beat the pressure.”
The Huskies took their first lead at 33-32 with two minutes left in the third, and it was 35-34 going into the fourth. But McGhie, who lasted the whole third quarter with three fouls, picked up her fourth and fifth within seven seconds midway through the fourth and fouled out with 4:10 left. Kents Hill led 42-38 when her fifth and final foul was called, but a Skye Rogers free throw followed by a rebound and two more free throws by Mia Leslie cut the deficit to 42-41.
“I think (McGhie fouling out) re-excited them a little bit because they knew that their focal point was no longer out there,” Marston said.
“If McGhie doesn’t foul out I think we’re going to Augusta on Tuesday instead of them,” Wamboldt said.
A Rogers layup 50 seconds later tied the game 44-all, and Caroline Gastonguay making 1 of 2 technical free throws with 1:52 left gave the Saints a 49-48 lead.
“Skye Rogers had a huge game for us, in the wake of those guys being in foul trouble,” Marston said. “She had 10 second-half points of her 15, in key spots.”
Hannah Kenney scored all five of her points in the second half, and all came from the free-throw line. She made 3 of 4 after both personal and technical fouls were called on the Huskies with 1:09 left, making it 52-48.
“It’s huge for a freshman to step to the line in that situation, especially where composure was the major issue in that situation,” Marston said. “To have some somebody so young in that composure-type setting step to the line in that situation and bury free throws like that, it’s huge for her and huge for us.”
Leah Herbin scored a game-high 17 points for Kents Hill, with many coming on layups after the Huskies started breaking the press. Wamboldt said she played “the game of her life” in her final high-school game.