MONMOUTH — With one free throw in the fourth quarter Monday, the Monmouth Academy comeback was complete — for a moment.
The Mustangs tied the game with that lone free throw but soon found themselves playing catch-up again.
Boothbay broke that tie early in the fourth and then dictated the game the rest of the quarter in a 51-46 win.
The Seahawks scored five in a row, part of a 9-2 run that opened a lead. Monmouth struggled to rally again down the stretch.
“They played hard,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “It just came down to hitting a couple key shots when we needed to. We hit those shots in the third quarter to make the run back. Once they countered, we didn’t hit the big shots.”
Boothbay (9-2) and Monmouth (7-3) are two of the top four teams in the Western C standings and battling for playoff positioning over the final weeks.
“This week is a big week for us,” said Boothbay coach Tanner Grover. “It is something similar to what you have to do in the tournament. The tournament you play Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This week, we play Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So we wanted to treat it like it was tournament week.”
Alex Clarke had a game-high 20 points while Morgan Crocker added 11 for Boothbay.
“I thought Alex played a heck of a game,” said Grover. “She really kind of controlled both ends. She always does the job for us defensively, but offensively, she really made her presence known.”
Monmouth got 14 from Kylie Kemp and 10 from Sierra Spencer.
It was Clarke who broke the 37-37 tie with 6:00 left in the fourth. After a Monmouth turnover, Crocker drove to the basket and completed a three-point play, making it 42-37.
“Then they started to pull the ball out and hold it,” said Wing. “That obviously changed the tide a bit.”
Boothbay did a nice job move the ball around and forcing the Mustangs to chase. The Seahawks not only took time off the clock but also didn’t allow Monmouth much chance to rally at the offensive end.
“I thought we did a nice job valuing the ball at the end and making the most of our possessions,” said Grover. “We were taking, not necessarily the shots they were giving us but the ones we wanted. I was really pleased with how we finished down the stretch.”
When Monmouth did get the ball, it struggled to put a dent into the lead. The Mustangs missed free throws, shot 3-for-13 in the fourth and turned the ball over when it couldn’t afford to.
“We got the ball where we wanted to but either we missed the easy shot or didn’t get a quality shot,” said Wing. “We had the ball on the block numerous times and never touched the rim.”
A Kemp steal made it 42-39 but baskets by Crocker and Clarke made it 46-39 with 4:31 left. Monmouth chipped at the lead with two Kemp free throws and a steal that made it 46-43 with 2:10 left, but Boothbay finished the job from the line. Sara Durgin sank a pair of key free throws with 1:28 left to make it 48-43. Crocker added three more in the final minute to pad the lead.
Boothbay finished the second quarter with a 14-4 run to take the lead and hold a halftime advantage of 28-23. Clarke and Sarah Caron each had a pair of hoops during that stretch.
In the third, Monmouth made a run of its own. Boothbay started 1-for-10 from the floor while Monmouth erased the lead with a Spencer 3 and a free throw from Melissa Brassard. The Mustangs finished the third up 34-33 after a Kemp basket, a Spencer 3 and a Danielle Bumann basket on a press breaker.
Boothbay started the fourth hitting four of its first five shots and were up 37-36 before a Brianna Hicks free throw tied it 37-37.
“The effort was definitely there,” said Wing, who noted that Brassard, Daisi Poole and Kemp were all nursing ankle injuries. “We had some girls that were dinged up a bit, but I’m pretty proud of how they played.”