TOPSHAM — The Mt. Ararat Eagles girls’ basketball team (0-2) did everything they could to try and jump ahead of Oxford Hills, but the Vikings (1-1) fought their way to a 39-33 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference victory on Wednesday night at Mt. Ararat High School.
Vikings senior Anna Winslow, who missed a majority of the preseason due to injury, played in her first regular season game. Though she was playing at 80 percent (per coach Nate Pelletier), she managed to lead all scorers with 16 points, while being a critical player at the free-throw line, shooting 10-for-16.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’ve got a lot of size,” Eagles head coach Andy Morris said. “I thought my girls did everything we needed to do to win that game, we just needed to make a couple more shots here or there and we turned the ball over a couple times down the stretch which didn’t help either.”
“Mt. Ararat fought the whole game, they fought back,” Pelletier said. “It was just trying to get our kids a little more composed, we turned it over at times we felt that we shouldn’t be turning it over and we made some silly mistakes. But when we needed it, Anna stepped up big making some free throws and I guess that’s what you need for senior leadership, for her to go get the ball and get some big free throws.”
Oxford Hills lost the lead only once in the game, in the second quarter when the Eagles’ Nikki Bradstreet drove to the basket with just over three minutes remaining. The Vikings regained control after Winslow drained three of four freebies to pull ahead 17-15.
The largest lead of the game was the six-point differential found in the game’s final score, but not before the Eagles tied it late in the fourth quarter on an Allison Melcher layup with 1:33 left on the clock.
“We wanted to stay in our full-court press,” Morris said about his team’s focus after tying the game. “We wanted to get a couple quick hits and try to contain them, but what happened was, in my mind, was we turned the ball over a couple of times and they capitalized and that kind of broke our back.”
“Defense is definitely our strong point,” Pelletier said. “We work on it every single day. Our goal is to keep teams under 35 (points) and we were able to do that today. We want to hit 50, but today just wasn’t one of those days. We did enough just to win.”
Both coaches agree that their teams are able to be competitive in the league, but putting the final pieces together will come in time.
“It’s just the composure piece,” Pelletier said. “We have kids that have played a lot of basketball and they just need to start being more relaxed out there. There was a lot thrown on them just because of a lot of injuries earlier in the year, but we’re starting to get kids back and kids are starting to play better.”
Melcher played a key role for the Eagles defense, totaling five steals on the night, while Sara Lamb collected six assists. Winslow tallied 11 rebounds for the Vikings.