LISBON — Scott Wing issued the challenge the other night.
After a season of injuries and near misses, his Monmouth Academy girls’ basketball team had to put up or shut down.
The Mustangs were playing Lisbon Tuesday night and sitting on the outside of the Western C tournament field. Monmouth needed a win to keep its tourney hopes alive.
“I put out a challenge to the seniors,” said Wing. “‘You’re going to be the first class in a long time to not make the playoffs. We’ve got to go out and win this game.'”
The Mustangs answered that challenge against Lisbon, despite falling behind by double digits in the first quarter. Monmouth roared back and beat the Greyhounds 51-30.
Monmouth (8-9) was ranked 13th in Western C behind Sacopee Valley and Lisbon. The top 12 teams advance to the postseason. Though a win over top-ranked Hall-Dale to end the regular season would certainly bolster the Mustangs hopes, the victory over the Greyhounds, along with Sacopee’s loss to Seacoast, should put Monmouth in contention.
“With this game, now we have two wins over Carrabec and Lisbon,” said Wing. “They play each other in the last game. So we’ll get double the points with whoever wins that game.”
Though Lisbon (6-11) roared out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, Monmouth battled its way back and had the game tied by halftime.
“We’ve been down like that before,” said sophomore guard Kylie Kemp. “It usually takes a while to get pumped up. We knew we needed to win. So we just dug in really hard. We usually come back really well.”
Lisbon struggled for much of the final three quarters. The Greyhounds were plagued by nearly 30 turnovers and over 30 fouls. Lisbon shot just 9-for-36 over the final three quarters.
“We started to get frazzled and mentally started to get out of it, a foul here or chuck the ball out of frustration,” said Lisbon coach Julie Wescott. “Nothing good ever comes out of that.”
Kemp led the Mustangs with 21 points. Daisi Poole added eight while Melissa Brassard chipped in seven. Kristine Kahl had six and did some nice work on the boards. Lisbon got eight each from Jessica Campbell and Briana Moore.
“They wanted to play hard,” said Wescott, whose team has lost five of its last six games. “We’ve been a a slump the last couple games. We knew we needed to set the tone because Monmouth wasn’t going to be easy. We hoped to sustain our momentum. We had a let down in the first quarter and we were tied at the half.”
Alexa Harmon, Haley Eck, Moore, Campbell and Sarah Giraldo all scored as Lisbon hit its first four shots of the game and built the 12-0 lead. Monmouth missed its first 10 and didn’t get a basket until Kemp scored on a three-point play with 56 seconds left in the quarter.
“When I called timeout a couple minutes into the game, I told them that they weren’t going to keep shooting like that,” said Wing, whose club trimmed the lead to 12-7 by quarter’s end.
Monmouth had been unable to utilize the zone press it had prepared over the last week for this game. When the Mustang started getting baskets, the press began to work.
“That caused problems,” said Wescott. “I think we panicked a little bit. We adjusted, but it slowed us down and caused us to take some bad shots.”
Lisbon shot 2-for-14 in the second and a 9-2 run by Monmouth had the game tied 16-16 at the half.
“Once we stared with the zone press, they started throwing the ball around,” said Kemp. “We actually got a lot of breaks.”
Monmouth scored six straight points to open a 22-16 lead to start the third, but Lisbon rallied with seven straight of its own, led by Harmon and Campbell. Lisbon got within one before a jumper and free throws by Kemp made it 28-25 after three.
From there, Lisbon shot 2-for-17 in the fourth and had 10 turnovers in the final quarter. Monmouth shot just twice from the floor in the first five minutes of the quarter but still built the lead thanks to 19 Monmouth free throws in the fourth. Kemp had 13 of her team’s 33 free throws, nine in the final quarter.
“We actually haven’t been doing very well with our free throws at all,” said Kemp. “We’ve been practicing those a lot because we knew we needed them. I guess that worked.”