MONMOUTH — They were so close a year ago.
In its Western Class C preliminary game at Old Orchard Beach last winter, the Monmouth girls' basketball team nearly pulled off the win to earn a trip to the quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center. Instead, the loss sent them home and ended their season.
"Last year, we were really trying to get to the civic center," said Monmouth coach Scott Wing. "That senior class is the only class in a long time that didn't get to play at least one game in there. These seniors didn't want that to happen to them."
Determined not to let history repeat itself Tuesday, this year's Mustangs made the best of their opportunity to advance. Monmouth shrugged off a slow start and outlasted a game Kents Hill club for a 47-37 win.
"We're so happy," said senior guard Daisi Poole. "We were so close last year, and it's been a long time since we've been there. The role models I had growing up in the program were the last ones that went to the civic center."
Monmouth's last appearance in August was in 2008, when the Mustangs reached the Western C final and lost to Madison. They'll get a rematch with Old Orchard Beach in next Tuesday's quarterfinals.
"I always tell them that I would have given anything to play in there when I was a player," said Wing. "I never got the chance. It's something special. Coaching there is special. I can't imagine how it is to play there."
Poole helped spark the Mustangs (14-5) with 14 points while fellow senior Kylie Kemp also had 14. Danielle Bumann added eight.
"Thank God Daisi played the game of her life, shooting the ball and coming up with some big rebounds and playing some tough defense," said Wing. "She really came through."
Kents Hill (5-10) got 22 points from Sara Grenier and nine from Caroline Tortorella.
The Huskies built a 9-8 lead after the first, but Monmouth took control of the game in the second. Kents Hill missed its first 13 shots and finished the quarter 3-for-19 from the floor. Monmouth got two quick shots from Poole from the outside to put Monmouth ahead.
"I'm not one to be a top scorer," said Poole. "We always talk in practice about it taking one shot to get everybody on a roll."
Monmouth had struggled to hit from the outside against the Kents Hill zone. After Poole's two perimeter shots and a 12-9 lead, the Mustangs started to cash in on offense. Kemp scored off a Sierra Spencer pass to make it 14-9. The Huskies stayed close and were within 18-15 at the half.
Then Monmouth used a 10-2 run to open the lead in the third. After a Bumann jumper, Poole hit from the outside. After a Tortorella basket, Poole buried a jumper and then added two free throws. Bumann had a steal to make it 28-17. A free throw by Brianna Hicks and a late hoop from Caroline Bonenfant made it 33-21 after three.
"We did make just enough to open it up to at least 10," said Wing. "We had the chance to blow it open but missed a few, and we had some defensive breakdowns."
Kents Hill made a charge in the fourth. Grenier had seven points in the quarter and helped the Huskies close the gap. Kents Hill had the chance to get to within five after a 7-2 run to start the quarter.
A basket by Ashley Coulombe halted that threat and a Kemp score off a Coulombe pass made it 39-28. The Huskies got within six on a Tortorella drive with 3:15 left, but baskets by Kemp and free throws by Poole and Spencer maintained the lead.
"It's really exciting," said Poole. "Knowing we play Old Orchard again, it's not really redemption but it's like we get another try to prove ourselves. Being at a neutral sight, we'll be better for both of us."