AUGUSTA — Oxford Hills’ 2-3 zone controlled most of Wednesday’s Eastern Class A semifinal against Messalonskee. But it was powerless to stop the Eagles in the final five seconds.
Fortunately for the Vikings, Sophia Holmes’ 3-point try bounced off the front of the rim, and Kelsey Mayo’s putback attempt rolled out as the buzzer sounded, preserving Oxford Hills’ 35-33 win at the Augusta Civic Center.
Anna Winslow scored a game-high 13 points and Mikayla Morin added 12 as the third-seeded Vikings (16-4) advanced to their first regional final since 2008. They will face top-seeded Edward Little Friday night.
“Free throws were clutch at the end. That’s what we really needed,” Winslow said.
No. 7 Messalonskee rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to tie it at 24-24 on Mikayla Turner’s basket to start the fourth quarter. Even though Turner would go on to score eight of her 10 points in the quarter, Crystal West answered on the Vikings’ next possession, and they led the rest of the way.
It still didn’t come easy.
Sophomore center Tiana Sugars (four points, seven rebounds, three blocks), who had to be helped off the court after bruising her knee late in the third quarter, returned midway through the fourth and made it 32-28 Vikings on a putback. That would be their last field goal for the final 3:20.
Turner scored to make it a two-point game, then Mayo (11 points, nine rebounds) made one of two at the free throw line with 1:13 left.
Morin answered with a pair of free throws, but Turner scored again to pull the Eagles back within one, 34-33, with 36 seconds remaining. After a missed free throw, the Eagles had a chance to take the lead but turned it over with 22 seconds to go.
Morin made the front end of a one-and-one to end the scoring, but not the drama, with 15.4 seconds left.
Messalonskee tried to be patient against Oxford Hills’ aggressive 2-3 zone, perhaps a little too patient at the start. The Eagles scored just two points in the first quarter, shooting 1-for-7, and trailed 14-4 three minutes into the second quarter.
Winslow and Morin gave the Eagles problems from the top of the zone, and Sugars, who had all three of her blocks in the first half, was a force in the middle of the back line.
“We talked about getting the ball inside in the beginning, but we still kind of fell into working the ball east-west,” Eagles coach Keith Derosby said. “It really wasn’t what our game-plan was, but they’re length scared us off. They were pushing us off that 3-point line just by being there.”
“They’re real long and they get a lot of deflections,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said of the Winslow/Morin duo. “That’s what we teach them, They don’t necessarily to get the steal. They just want to get that deflection.”
Sugars and the Vikings limited Mayo to just two points in the first half and took a 20-12 lead into the locker room.
“I was just trying to body her up, just trying to be physical and try to stop her using her right hand,” Sugars said.
Mayo got untracked in the third quarter, scoring eight of Messalonskee’s 10 points. The Vikings, meanwhile, managed only a Sugars jumper and Winslow putback and saw their lead dwindle to two.