BETHEL – Telstar Regional High School already crafted a collage of close Mountain Valley Conference girls’ basketball victories this season. All the Rebels were missing was a signature.
Pass the paint brushes. In its most significant triumph of a suddenly promising winter, Telstar tightened the defensive clamps in the second half Monday night and took down Jay, 54-50.
Courtesy of this performance, we’ll be hearing from the junior tandem of Bailey Davis and Josie Reiss again in the Western Class C tournament and undoubtedly next year, too. Each of them scored 21 points, combining for eight 3-pointers. They also teamed up to corral 20 rebounds.
“We needed a big win,” said Reiss. “We felt we needed to beat either Jay or Madison to get into the top eight and host a playoff game, and we did it. We played well.”
Telstar (7-6) has now won five games by four points or fewer, but the Rebels didn’t land any of the first four against a team of Jay’s caliber. The Tigers’ 6-6 mark hides three forfeits that are pending a Jan. 31 appeal to the Maine Principals’ Association. Jay used an ineligible player in three December victories.
Adding to that uphill climb, Jay absorbed its second straight loss after a 10-day layoff. Last week was Jay’s mid-term exam stretch, and the Tigers’ only scheduled game against Wiscasset was postponed twice due to foul weather.
“I attribute a lot of our struggles to that,” said Jay coach Chris Bessey. “I hope that’s the reason. At halftime we only had six turnovers, but I think we were only shooting about 25 percent.”
Kaylie DeMillo led Jay with 21 points, six steals and five assists. The explosive senior guard didn’t enjoy one of her best shooting nights, however.
Telstar junior Abby Hutchins was at least partially responsible for that, sticking to DeMillo like a distracting wad of bubble gum on the bottom of a sneaker. At the other end of the floor, Hutchins dished out five assists.
“Abby played great. She’s our defensive stopper,” said Telstar coach Kelly Dole. “Whoever the other team’s best player is, we always put Abby on her.”
Liz LeBlanc added 17 points for the Tigers.
Jay jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter before stumbling to 3-of-17 from the field in the second. Later, the Tigers missed nine of their 10 tries from the floor in the fourth period while yielding Telstar nine fateful offensive rebounds.
Reiss led Telstar back into contention with nine points in the second period. The Rebels finished the half on a 10-2 run before missing six straight potential go-ahead shots, sending Jay into the locker room with a 26-25 advantage.
Davis finally put Telstar in front with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:08 remaining in the third. Three ties and four lead changes highlighted that frantic quarter. Reiss nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the game with 11 seconds left to knot it at 44.
DeMillo delivered 12 of Jay’s 18 points in the third quarter before hitting a game-tying jumper in the paint and a go-ahead free throw early in the fourth. Davis’ turnaround hook shot from the free-throw stripe put Telstar ahead for good with 5:03 remaining.
Megan Smith (six points, 10 rebounds) cashed in an important second-chance bucket for Telstar in the final two minutes. Reiss also knocked down a pair of free throws.
“We definitely needed this to prove to ourselves that we can beat a good team,” Reiss said.