Richmond High School’s Ashley Abbott, left, looks for a teammate to pass to as Monmouth Academy’s Abby Ferland defends during their game at Richmond High School on Friday. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)
RICHMOND — Monmouth girls basketball coach Scott Wing could see his team was leading heading into halftime of Friday’s matchup against Richmond.
He just wasn’t quite sure how.
“We just shot the ball horrible tonight, that’s probably one of our worst shooting games of the year so far,” he said. “I was shocked to see that we were ahead at halftime, because I thought we were behind the whole time.”
Behind? The Mustangs were just pulling away, taking command of what became a 48-33 victory over the Bobcats in a Mountain Valley Conference contest and a battle between the two teams atop the Class C South Heal point standings.
“We played well, but we didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Wing, whose team improved to 7-1 thanks to an excellent performance from Kaeti Butterfield, who led all players with 18 points. “That played a big difference in how long it took the game to open up a little bit.”
Richmond fell to 5-4, partly because it tried too much to play like the defending Class C champions.
“I think we showed in the first half that we can play with them,” coach Mike Ladner said. “We made the mistake in the second half of falling into the trap of trying to run with them. Like I told the girls after the game, we can’t do that. We’re not made to run the whole game. This year, we’re not full-court pressing as much, we’re not looking to push the ball as much. We’re looking to slow it down.”
And when the game was slower, with both teams backing off defensively and matching their half-court offenses against each other, the Bobcats were neck-and-neck with Class C South’s top team, even leading 10-8 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, however, Butterfield found her stroke and the Mustangs found their rhythm. The junior forward knocked down four shots from the field and scored 11 points in the period, leading the way as Monmouth turned the two-point deficit into a 27-20 lead at the break.
“When you get on a roll like that, you usually just kind of start to get a feel for the game and how things are going,” she said. “Then everything kind of falls into place after that.”
“Katie does a good job of getting girls on her hip and can catch that ball and finish it,” Wing said. “But she can also step out and hit some outside shots, and that’s a big advantage that she gives us over some other post players.”
Off and running, the deeper Mustangs weren’t about to slow down, building their lead to 36-26 by the end of the third and then widening the gap in the fourth. Numbers factored into the pulling away, as the Bobcats struggled to keep up.
“We knew that, in a 32-minute game, we have more players than they do, it would eventually wear them down or they’d get in foul trouble,” Wing said.
Monmouth also overwhelmed Richmond on the boards. Abbey Allen (11 points) and Destiny Clough had six rebounds apiece to lead the Mustangs, who at one point in the third quarter grabbed four straight offensive rebounds before Allen finished the series with a putback to bump the lead to 33-23.
“They killed us on the boards, straight up, offensively and defensively,” Ladner said. “I can promise you on Monday, we’re going to be working on some boxing out and rebounding drills. … We can clean that up. A lot of that is heart and desire.”
Sydney Tilton led the Bobcats with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but she managed only three points in the second half as Monmouth began to smother her whenever she took the ball into the paint.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime, was collapsing on her once she got the ball,” Wing said. “Once she got it, we decided we’d be better off for her to kick the ball out to someone else than to try to make a move, because she is tough.”
Bryanne Lancaster added nine points and seven rebounds for Richmond.
“We started off proving that we could stay with them. I think it was pretty even, but as the game went on, we almost played against ourselves,” said Tilton, who was recognized in a pregame ceremony for scoring her 1,000th career point on Wednesday at Mt. Abram. “Once we create energy, we’ve got to keep that up all the way or teams are going to pull away, period.”
Richmond High School’s Caitlin Kendrick, left, tries to get around Monmouth Academy defender Audrey Fletcher during their game at Richmond High School on Friday. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)Richmond’s Sydney Tilton, left, and Monmouth Academy’s Abbey Allen go up for a jump ball to start their game at Richmond High School on Friday. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)