Monmouth tops Houlton, repeats as Class C girls’ basketball champion

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The Monmouth Academy Mustangs celebrate with gold ball emblematic of winning the Class C state championship Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

AUGUSTA — Monmouth’s offense came ready to defend the Class C state championship.

The Mustangs started fast and held on to defeat Houlton 56-50, becoming the first team in 15 years to defend the Class C girls’ basketball title Saturday at the August Civic Center.

“It’s crazy,” Monmouth senior Hannah Anderson said. “The buzzer went off and my heart just exploded. End of senior year, it’s just … ah, it’s a great feeling.”

The Mustangs came out running and firing, opening the first quarter with a 6-0 run and finishing it with an 11-0 streak that sent them into the second quarter ahead 22-9.

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Tia Day started the first run with a 3-pointer, and concluded the second with a pair of treys from far behind the 3-point line.

“She stepped up big,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said.

“Tia was on. That was good,” Anderson said. “Everyone made a bunch of shots in the first quarter. Everyone was on. It’s hard to know who to guard when everyone’s shooting it (well).”

The Mustangs didn’t let up in the second quarter, leading by as many as 14 points and going into the half up 33-21.

“We wanted to make sure we came out strong and got them running up and down the court,” Day said, “because that’s kind of our game, getting fast breaks, and then, with that our shots will come.”

From the start, Monmouth was too fast and too deep for the Shiretowners.

“That was our game plan was to just run as much as we could, full-court press them, make them have to work the full length of the court,” Wing said, “and then just keep running and running.”

They also were shooting too well, making four first-half 3-pointers and finishing with a new Class C state title game record with eight 3-pointers, passing the seven Waynflete made in 2013.

“We got off to a bad start, and I’ll tell you, they shot the lights out for three quarters,” Houlton coach Shawn Graham said. “We shifted from 2-3 to 1-3-1 to 1-2-2 to man-to-man, and we just struggled to get stops defensively.”

Abby Ferland opened the second half with a 3 to keep Monmouth’s big start going in the second half. When Ferland hit a free throw with 3:16 left in the third, the Mustangs had their largest lead of the game, 47-31.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the advantage was 51-40. It seemed unlikely that the Mustangs could give up an 11-point lead, but Bouchard as dominant in the third and was even more so in the fourth.

“She’s a great player,” Anderson, who was the primary defender on Bouchard, said. “She really tired me out. She took control of the game, and all-around, she’s a great player.”

The Mustangs seemed intent to burn as much clock as they could in the fourth quarter. They didn’t score their first points of the period until Allen made a 3 midway through, but their lead was still 10 points, 54-44.

“We wanted to make them play defense,” Wing said.

Bouchard, though, took over the final three minutes on both ends of the floor, making steals and bucket to eventually get the Shires’ deficit down to 54-50 with less than 30 seconds left.

Wing said it was uncharacteristic for the Mustangs to turn the ball over as much as they did in the fourth quarter. But, he added, Bouchard played a part in that.”

“Then the factor of that long-armed, long-legged great athlete out there causing those turnovers is something we don’t get to see that much,” Wing said. “And that’s what impressed me about that Bouchard girl tonight. I said (before) that I thought she might be the best player in the state, no doubt in my mind that she is the best player state after playing against her.

“And what she showed in that fourth quarter, with guts and carrying her team, not just offensively but defensively was very, very impressive to me.”

Bouchard had a chance to cut deeper into the deficit, but she missed a shot in the paint that Monmouth’s Destiny Clough rebounded and passed to Day, who was fouled and then made both ends of the the one-and-one to lock down the Mustangs’ second straight state title and second in school history.

“We’ve won two of them now,” Wing said. “It’s pretty rare territory. When you look at programs that have multiple and back-to-back gold balls, it’s a pretty slim number.”

Bouchard, a Miss Maine Basketball finalist, finished with 35 points.

Day finished with 14 points and eight assists for Monmouth. Abbey Allen scored a team-high 15 points, and Hannah Anderson hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points.

“All of three our seniors that played stepped up real big tonight,” Wing said. “Tia shot the ball better than she has been this season. Abbey Allen was just steady Abbey Allen like she always was. Hannah had the unenviable task of guarding Bouchard.”

Monmouth Academy celebrates after time ran out in the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

Monmouth Academy’s Emma Vierling, left, and Tia Day celebrate after cutting down nets after the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)Monmouth Academy’s Abby Allen shoot against Houlton in the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Monmouth Academy celebrates after time ran out in the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

Monmouth Academy’s Hannah Anderson dribbles around Houlton’s Tessa Solomon in the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

Monmouth Academy’s Julia Johnson shoots in the Class C state championship basketball game against Houlton on Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

Augusta Police Sgt. Christian Behr salutes during the National Anthem as the August Police honor guard presents the colors at midcourt before the Class C state championship basketball games on Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

Houlton’s Abbie Worthley and Monmouth Academy’s Hannah Anderson wrestle for a loose ball in the Class C state championship basketball game on Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)Monmouth Academy’s Hannah Anderson looks for teammate to pass to in the Class C state championship basketball game Saturday in the Paul G. Poulin Auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

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