When his Oxford Hills girls’ basketball team took to the floor for the fourth overtime Friday, the Vikings stopped playing close to the vest, and opened up their game.
“One thing we told the girls in the fourth overtime is that we were going out to try to win,” Pelletier said. “There was no more holding the ball. We wanted to get more shots and extend our defense up as high as we could so they couldn’t stall.”
With that mission in mind, the Vikings seized control of a 48-minute marathon and held off Skowhegan for a 47-43 Eastern Class A quarterfinal win at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Vikings advance to Wednesday’s semifinal to play Messalonskee.
Through the first three overtime periods, both teams ran the clock down. At times, the Vikings simply held the ball while Skowhegan sat back in the zone.
“It was hard because we were delaying and delaying waiting for the shot at the end,” said junior guard Mikayla Morin. “It just wasn’t happening. He just let us play in the last overtime. We all just wanted to try to get ahead by a substantial amount and not worry.”
After both teams missed shots early in the fourth overtime, the Vikings broke the tie for good with 2:33 left. Brooke Murch fed Anna Winslow with a pass from the right corner. Winslow laid it in at the left post for the lead.
“I’m going to say that was pure luck,” said Murch, a senior forward. “I just kind of threw it hoping she would get it because she’s really tall. It worked out for the best.”
The Vikings (15-4) added to the lead a minute later when Murch took the ball to the hole and was fouled, making it 46-41 on the three point play.
“I saw the opening and I took it and it went in,” Murch said.
Skowhegan (11-8) got a Morgan Buker basket in the final minute but Morin padded the lead with a free throw with 22 seconds left.
“The kids played hard,” Skowhegan coach Robert Witts said. “Our kids played their guts out. It came down to a bounce here or there. I can’t ask any more from our kids.”
Morin finished with 16 points and Murch added 12. Crystal West had nine and Winslow added eight. The Indians got 20 from Taylor Johnson, including six 3’s. Buker added 11.
Morin had scored on two late drives in the fourth to put the Vikings up 35-32, but a Johnson 3 with 42 seconds left tied the game. After a Vikings turnover, Skowhegan had the chance at the winner but a Alanna Atkinson shot from the corner didn’t fall.
In overtime, both teams ran the clock and played with patience. With both clubs stacked in a zone, neither was willing to rush opportunities. The Vikings had had a hard time getting the ball into the post against Buker and had Winslow, Morin and Tiana Sugars nursing foul trouble.
“If they were going to let us take one shot to win it, that’s what we were going to do,” Pelletier said.
That was fine with Skowhegan. The Indians are a patient team that sets up offensive plays and Witts didn’t want a costly breakdown defensively.
“I was happy they were in the stall,” Witts said. “It gave our kids a chance to rest. We’re not a man-to-man team. I’m not going to come out to play man-to-man.”
Neither team scored in the first overtime. In the second, a drive by Murch put the Vikings up late but Buker tied the game in the post with 1:01 left. Oxford Hills had the chance to win but couldn’t get the shot. In the third overtime, Johnson put Skowhegan in the driver’s seat with a drive with 1:52 left. The Indians held that lead until Morin tied it with a baseline drive with two seconds left.
“It was set up for me to get the ball,” Morin said. “We were looking for Crystal or Tiana. I got around the baseline and Tiana kind of screened that girl, and I just kind of laid it in.”
It gave the Vikings new life and forced a fourth and decisive overtime.
“Mikayla tying the game was huge,” Pelletier said. “It really wasn’t how we drew it up. We wanted to get it high post or low post but Mikayla saw a drive and took it. That’s what big game players do. They want to take those shots and she did it.”
The Vikings started the game slowly. Winslow picked up two early fouls. Oxford Hills hit just two of its first nine shots. Skowhegan drilled four of its first six, all 3’s. That helped them build a 12-5 lead early. The Vikings rallied with 3’s from West and Morin to get within 12-11 after one.
“One thing we weren’t ready for was the way they shot the ball,” Pelletier said. “I don’t know that they’ve shot the ball that well all year. That was an amazing night for them shooting the ball.”
Skowhegan missed its first five shots of the second quarter and the Vikings opened a six-point lead. Murch and Sugars did a nice job in the post in Winslow’s absence. Murch hit a leaner and scored on a three-point play. Then Morin drilled a 3 to end the half with a 21-15 lead.
“Anna is a key player and the high scorer in all of our games,” Murch said. “I felt the pressure to step up and I’m sure Tiana did as well.”
The Vikings had the lead up to 28-21 midway through the third but a pair of 3’s from Johnson wiped that out. Two Buker free throws put the Indians up 29-28 after three.