AUGUSTA — Five. One. Zero. Four. Twelve.
There’s neither rhyme nor reason to that arithmetic progression, but it demonstrates why nobody from Mt. Blue should hang its head in the aftermath of Friday’s 56-55 overtime quarterfinal loss to Skowhegan at Augusta Civic Center.
Sure, the Cougars were the No. 3 seed and had beaten No. 6 Skowhegan by double digits less than a month ago.
It is the Indians, however, who are the tournament fixture. Those numbers above communicate Mt. Blue’s win totals in the five seasons since its previous Eastern Class A playoff appearance in 2007.
“I have one senior,” Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick said. “To go from four wins to 12 and to play in the tournament like that, now we’re just going to have to bring it again.”
Mt. Blue brought it in abundance Friday afternoon, showing none of the early-game doldrums tourney observers have come to expect from teams that are unfamiliar with the civic center’s noise and vast, open background behind the baskets.
Miranda Nicely scored eight points and Gabby Foy nailed two 3-pointers in the first quarter, staking Mt. Blue to a 16-12 lead.
The second quarter is when the Cougars really piled it on. Mt. Blue shut out Skowhegan and got another 3-pointer from Foy, two buckets each from Jaycee Mullen and Makenzie Conlogue and a pair of Nicely free throws to build a 29-12 halftime lead.
That’s why Philbrick wasn’t hearing any talk of nerves ultimately catching up with his team.
“If that was going to play a part, it would have played it early,” Philbrick said. “(Skowhegan) kept bringing it and bringing it and bringing it and played it all the way into an overtime and with 2.2 seconds left they score to win the game? That’s a team that didn’t quit. And we didn’t quit either.”
In fact, it was two 3-point bombs by Foy in overtime that forced Skowhegan into a win-or-else possession in the closing seconds.
Chelsey Whittemore hit the layup to give Skowhegan the victory.
“It almost got away from us in overtime. We didn’t close out to Foy like we’d like to. She’s too good a shooter,” Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said.
Center Corinne Dingley is Mt. Blue’s lone senior. Starters Mullen, Amy Hilton and Foy and first reserve Conlogue have a year remaining. Nicely (12 points, seven rebounds) is a sophomore.
Give the team that took out the Cougars the final word on their future.
“You have to take your hat off to Mt. Blue, after last season, coming in here and playing the way they did. I think the way they won four games last year. No. 3 seed in Eastern Maine. They had a hell of a season,” Cowan said. “They should be proud of their kids. Our kids came out today and we happened to make one more basket than they did.”
BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL
The newspapers that float around the civic center during tournament week may serve a purpose other than a way to kill time between sessions.
Skowhegan guard Amanda Johnson related the story of coach Heath Cowan sharing a quote from Philbrick in a Mt. Blue story that appeared in the Central Maine Morning Sentinel.
“It was something the Mt. Blue coach said about our confidence going down,” Johnson said. “That got us started.”
Well, not immediately. Skowhegan rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to win in overtime.
“This team is different. They want us to do that,” Cowan said. “They ask us to kick them in the butt a little bit.”
The Indians probably are one of the few teams in history — if not the only team — to win a tournament game after getting shut out for a full quarter.
“I told the kids this has to be one of the best comebacks, boys, girls, in the history of the Eastern Maine tournament,” Cowan said. “There have probably been some teams come back from bigger deficits. But to not score in the second quarter, be down 17 and come back and win says a lot about our kids.”
The status of the Lewiston boys’ leading scorer is uncertain going into today’s quarterfinal game against rival Edward Little.
Josh Thomas suffered a broken nose in the fourth quarter of Lewiston’s 58-53 victory over EL on Feb. 10. Lewiston coaches said he is doubtful for today and that a late-week doctor’s appointment would determine his availability for later rounds.
Losing the top gun would be crushing news for most teams, but the Devils are better equipped to handle it than most. Six players averaged 8 to 10 points.
“You look at our scoring and we had 10 guys who scored double figures in different games,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said. “Our leading scorer came off the bench. It’s a funky type of thing. If you try to analyze it, it’s hard to do. It’s a fun style of basketball to play and it’s been fun to coach.”
While many of the Edward Little girls are accustomed to playing tournament games in Augusta, the Red Eddies had two freshmen making their debut.
Brooke Reynolds and Tianna Harriman are newcomers to an EL team making its fourth straight trip to the quarterfinals. Both came up huge for the second-ranked Red Eddies. Harriman had 15 points while Reynolds had four.
“I was nervous,” Reynolds said. “It was just way different than what I’m used to, but it was good.”
Harriman said she had played in the Augusta Civic Center numerous times but that didn’t calm her nerves completely.
“I was a little nervous but once I got going, I was all excited,” Harriman said.
The two freshmen have been regular sparks off the bench for EL this season, but the Red Eddies need their contributions in the third quarter Friday.
Hampden had erased a 17-point deficit and gotten within two points. EL needed a response and it was its younger talent that delivered.
“Tianna Harriman just came up huge,” said Jipson. “She hit two unbelievable 3s and she hit her free throws. When they cut it to two, she made a great pass to Reynolds. She made a big-time basket.”
Reynold’s baskets helped EL answer Hampden in the third quarter. Then Harriman helped put the game away in the fourth. She finished with 10 of her 15 in the final quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“I’ve been off on my shots,” Harriman said. “So tonight, I was fired up.”
In addition to the two freshmen in the third quarter, EL was also utilizing sophomore guard Kory Norcross. She finished with 13 points, four coming in that critical third quarter. She added three free throws in the final quarter.
“To have two freshmen and a sophomore out there for a lot of that time, I just loved the energy we had and were playing with,” Jipson said.