LEWISTON — First impressions proved deceiving Saturday afternoon.
While Lewiston rolled to an early lead, Mt. Ararat stumbled at the start. The Blue Devils built a sizable lead and the Eagles were falling out of it.
That all changed in the second half. Mt. Ararat rallied while Lewiston couldn’t finish off a close game. The Eagles completed the comeback for a 43-38 overtime win.
The Blue Devils had the lead late in regulation and early in overtime but couldn’t complete the job. Winning the close games is still a work in progress for the Blue Devils (1-4).
“We weren’t in a lot of games last year,” Lewiston coach Lynn Girouard said. “It’s a transition for all of them, me included. If we’d have hit a couple of shots at the end, it would have been a different story.”
Mt. Ararat was down by as many as 14 points in the first half but rallied to take the lead in the third quarter and battled Lewiston the rest of the way. It wasn’t until a basket by Nikki Bradstreet and free throws in overtime that the Eagles were able to open a lead.
“I thought the girls played with a ton of character,” Mt. Ararat coach Andy Morris said. “We discussed, before the start of the game and after, the adversity we’re facing as a team. We’ve got two starters on the bench. We’ve got girls that have to play big minutes and really step it up.”
The Eagles (3-3) were missing point guard Katie Labbay and forward Lindsey Cornelison. Both Katelyn Cox and Kate Guerin filled in nicely. Mt. Ararat struggled from the start, missing its first seven shots and turning the ball over 14 times in the first half.
Though Lewiston jumped out to the early lead, the Blue Devils couldn’t sustain it. Lewiston had some foul trouble and watched the offense go quiet, shooting 7-for-46 over the final three quarters and overtime.
“I think they finally caught on to what we were doing a little bit,” Girouard said. “Their defensive intensity picked up a little bit, and we were a couple of notches below what we could have been. We did great defensively in the first half, which is a big improvement for us because we’ve been a second half team. The first half, I was really pleased, but I think they got a little relaxed. “
Allison Melcher led the Eagles with 11 points, including eight in the fourth quarter and overtime. Nikki Bradstreet added nine while doing a stellar defensive job on Lewiston’s Kristina Blais. Sara Lamb added eight while Guerin had seven.
Lewiston got 18 from Amanda Swart. She had 14 in the first half but was limited because of foul trouble the rest of the way. Blais finished with 11.
“I thought she had a monster game,” Morris said of Swart, who scored 12 points in the first quarter. “When we did the scouting, she was on the radar but not like that. I thought she played a great game.”
Lewiston roared out to an 18-6 lead in the opening quarter, led by Swart’s play in the paint. The Blue Devils shot 6-for-14 and opened the game with a 12-0 lead. A basket by Swart to start the second quarter had the lead up to 20-6.
Mt. Ararat started to rally before halftime and used an 8-2 run to close the gap to 22-14 at the break. Cox had four points during that stretch.
“We weren’t playing well but we were within eight,” Morris said. “We wanted to stay with what we’d done well. Our 2-3 zone seemed to work and our 1-2-1 pressure did a nice job.”
The Eagles started the third with an 11-2 surge, including back-to-back 3’s by Lamb that put Mt. Ararat in the lead. Blais got the lead back for Lewiston, which led 29-25 after three.
“Lamb is a great shooter,” Girouard said. “When she hit those 3’s, I knew it was going to be a battle the rest of the game.”
The teams traded the lead numerous times in the fourth. After Swart had put Lewiston up 34-32 with 3:45 left, Melcher sank two free throws to tie it with 3:22 remaining.
Blais put the Blue Devils back ahead with a short jumper with 2:58 left. Mt. Ararat got a free throw from Guerin. Following the offensive board on her miss, Melcher put back the rebound for the 37-36 lead with 2:35 left. Lewiston tied the game with 1:16 left on a Morgan Eliasen free throw. Lewiston had missed four straight from the line in the fourth prior to that. Lewiston had a chance at the end of regulation but a try by Swart was short.
Though Lewiston got the lead on a Blais free throw in overtime, the Blue Devils wouldn’t score again in the final 2:30. Lewiston shot 0-for-11 in overtime.
“They’ll fall eventually,” Girouard said. “We work on them every day. We work on foul shots. We work on the little bunnies that we missed at the end. It’s tough, but the girls are battling every day, and we’ll get there.”
A drive by Bradstreet gave Mt. Ararat the lead for good with 2:11 left. Melcher padded the lead with two free throws with 1:01 remaining. Lamb and Bradstreet added free throws in the final minute.
“The second half, Sara Lamb came through with some really big 3’s,” Morris said. Nikki Bradstreet sliced to the basket for quick layups here or there. She also had the responsibility of guarding (Blais). We knew she was a pretty good guard for them. Nikki’s a sophomore, and I thought she did a wonderful job on her defensively.”