AUBURN — After too many missed shots and too many turnovers, the Edward Little girls’ basketball team needed something to change the momentum Tuesday.
The Red Eddies watched Mt. Blue rally and close the gap to a couple of points. The Cougars were surging and the Red Eddies were struggling.
Tianna Harriman changed everything, drilling a crucial 3 with 2:59 left and then another key free throw in the final minute as EL pulled away for a 51-42 win.
“We were all crazy,” said Harriman of the final quarter as EL began to struggle. “We just needed to relax.”
Harriman’s 3 turned a three-point lead into a 43-37 advantage. Then when the Cougars (1-1) got within 44-42 in the final minute, her free throw padded the lead. Emily Jacques added two free throws and a fast break basket. Then Eraleena Hairston sank two from the line to bolster the line in the final seconds.
“The second half, we played aggressively and got after it pretty good on the defensive end,” said Mt. Blue coach Gavin Kane. “I told the girls that I felt like the first half we were in a feeling out process and were trying to decide whether we could play with them or not, but I liked the way we bounced back in the second half.”
Jacques led EL (3-1) with 16 points while Harriman finished with 12. Hairston added nine, including seven in the second half. Brooke Reynold had seven. Mt. Blue got 14 from Eryn Doiron and 11 from Addie Brinkman. Caitlin Kane added seven.
EL was up by 13 entering the fourth, but Mt. Blue managed to battle back. The Cougars scored seven straight to open the final quarter. A drive by Kane made it 39-33 with 6:02 left.
EL missed its first five shots from the floor and missed five straight free throws. The Red Eddies also had seven turnovers in the fourth.
“We’ve got to make our free throws down the stretch,” said EL coach Craig Jipson. “The biggest thing was, as a team, we’ve got to make better decisions with the basketball. We’d just make the careless turnover. If you’re going to run and play fast, you’re going to make some turnovers. We’re just making the unforced turnover and that’s not acceptable.”
Brinkman scored back-to-back in the post and got Mt. Blue within 40-37 with 3:50 left. That’s when EL got its first field goal of the quarter. Harriman got an inbounds pass and shot it from the right corner.
“I thought it was actually going to be short,” said Harriman, who had the game-tying 3 late in overtime against Bangor last week. “Then I was all pumped when it went in, and I was all ready to get back on defense.”
Brooke Reynolds added another free throw with 2:32 left to give EL a seven-point lead, but Mt. Blue’s Doiron took the ball to the basket and drew numerous fouls. She scored five straight from the line to get the Cougars within 44-42 with 1:18 left.
Harriman was fouled on EL’s next possession. She missed the first free throw but sank the second with 35 seconds left.
“The first one, I was overthinking a lot,” Harriman said. “The second one, I just went up there and shot.”
Mt. Blue missed on the other end and Jacques drew a foul. She sank a pair and then scored EL’s only other field goal in transition with 17 second left. Hairston finished it off with two from the line.
“We really changed the momentum there late in the third quarter and in the fourth,” Kane said. “We got a great team to turn it over several times. I was certainly pleased with the effort, in the second half in particular, and felt the girls left it on the floor.”
EL opened the early 14-6 lead with 10 straight points in the first. Jacques and Harriman each had a 3. EL shot 6-for-12 in the quarter while Mt. Blue was 1-for-5.
The Cougars were down by 10 early in the second but got baskets by Rachelle Bator and Mackenzie Harris off the bench to cut the lead to 16-12. EL finished the half up 22-15 on a Jordyn Reynolds basket.
Mt. Blue was within 30-24 after a Kane free throw, but Hairston scored on a three-point play. Harriman and Brooke Reynolds followed with baskets, and Hairston sank two free throws for a 39-26 lead.
“I give Mt. Blue credit,” said Jipson. “They played very hard. We liked the pace in the first half and we like to get the score up into the 60’s, but we just haven’t been scoring that well.”