MONMOUTH — Better now than in a week or two, but the flu has attacked the Monmouth Academy girls’ basketball team like a half-court trap.
Already down their point guard and another key contributor due to injury, the Mustangs had three of their surviving starters in sick bay over the weekend, including do-everything senior Kylie Kemp.
Kemp brought the aches, pains and sour stomach to the Lisbon Greyhounds on Monday night. She scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, helping Monmouth hang on for a 50-43 victory in an MVC regular-season finale.
If you watched Kemp through the seniors’ pre-game presentation of flowers to their parents or during her highly managed minutes early in the game, it was hard to imagine such a finishing flourish.
“The way I felt all day, not really, but I knew I was going to try,” Kemp said.
Fellow senior Paxton Lessard and sophomore Sidney Wilson, the Mustangs’ new point guard, also have been mired in that mid-winter malaise.
They, too, put down the chicken soup and ginger ale and put up game-saving numbers.
Wilson scored eight of her 16 points in the first quarter, allowing the Mustangs to land on their feet after a floundering start. Lessard put together seven points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“With the injuries that we have, I was very proud of the way we played,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “It was a little bit of a slow start, and that kind of concerned me right off the bat. I had a feeling once the juices got flowing a little bit with some of them that they would probably step into it.”
Monmouth (11-7) moved up to No. 7 in the Class C West Heal Point standings. With no games remaining, Wing expects that the Mustangs will slip to ninth. That likely would ensure them a short road trip to Kents Hill for the preliminary round.
Not even a win would have been enough to vault Lisbon (6-12) into the playoffs, but a gritty effort in the finale bodes well for a team that will graduate only two seniors.
Sophomores Adrianna White and Bree Sautter led the Greyhounds with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Freshman Kipri Steele added nine.
Sautter knocked down three 3-pointers in the third quarter, rallying Lisbon from a deficit of 12 points in the second quarter to a single marker late in the third.
“We weren’t as intense as I would have liked in the first half, kind of dull,” Lisbon coach Julie Wescott said. “We kept it alive and made a game out of it. That was our goal.
Lisbon led 6-0 out of the gate before Wilson’s drive to the basket ignited her mini-run.
She later hit a short jumper from each side of the baseline. Lessard’s pull-up in the paint gave Monmouth the lead for good, 11-10, prior to another Wilson basket courtesy of Haley West’s offensive rebound.
“Sidney really stepped up and helped us by making her shots,” Kemp said. “Once one person starts making them, I think everybody catches on.”
Monmouth opened the second quarter with a 12-1 blast, including seven points from Kemp, and led 25-17 at halftime.
Sautter’s long-range prowess kept the Greyhounds afloat, however, and Steele’s 3-point play made it 32-31 with 7:36 to go.
West and Kemp combined for four straight free throws to give Monmouth some breathing room. Another Steele bucket cut it back to two with four minutes left, but Wilson notched the last three points in a 6-0 surge to close it out.
“It gets things going positive into the tournament, and I think it probably did have some positive impact,” Wing said. “This ensured that we stay ahead of Hall-Dale. If we dropped below them, it would have been a whole different bracket.”
Mia Durgin supplied five of her seven points in the fourth quarter for Lisbon, which expects four of its five starters back in 2014-15.
“They’re already talking about summer basketball,” Wescott said. “It’s experience. We’ve been in some tight games, but the consistency is not there yet. That’s something we’re building on. We knew coming in that even beating them wasn’t going to be enough points to get in, but we said don’t end the season with regrets.”