AUGUSTA — There was drama early in Tuesday night’s Western Class C girls’ basketball quarterfinal, when No. 9 St. Dom’s threw an eight-minute scare into No. 1 Hall-Dale.
And there was drama late, when Hall-Dale star Carylanne Wolfington ran to and fro, stuck on 999 career points for more than a dozen possessions.
Wolfington finally banked one off the window from six feet with 1:28 remaining, and it was the ideal exclamation point for the reigning state champion Bulldogs in a 45-32 ouster of the Saints.
“I was so nervous,” said Wolfington, who needed 20 points and finished with 21 to go with eight rebounds, seven steals and three assists.
In reality, it was only Wolfington’s second-biggest bank shot of the game.
With time dwindling in the first quarter, the 5-foot-7 forward picked up a loose ball, stared down the rim and rattled home a 30-foot bomb that gave the Bulldogs (16-3) the lead for keeps.
“There were only two shots Wolfington had that I was upset with us for allowing,” St. Dom’s coach Jon Berry said. “They made tough shots. Our goal was to make them earn it, and they definitely did earn it.”
Kristina Buck added 15 points for Hall-Dale, matching Wolfington with three 3-pointers.
St. Dom’s (8-12) held Hall-Dale to 27 percent shooting, but the Saints only shot 25 percent and couldn’t consistently capitalize.
Mary Caron led the Saints with 13 points and nine rebounds. Allison Conley added eight points and eight blocked shots.
The Saints kept the Bulldogs within reach during two December MVC meetings and did the same for most of the playoff rematch by successfully employing a deliberate, half-court approach.
“They did a great job with their game plan, really slowing the game down,” Hall-Dale coach Brandon Terrill said. “It seemed like they’d have the ball for a minute or two at a time. Then maybe we’d score or dribble it off our foot or something, and it would go back to them and they’d have it for another minute or two.”
Olivia Cluff’s 3-pointer capped a 9-2 Saints opening run. McKenzie Roy, Caron and Conley also scored to counter two Wolfington free throws.
“We had a game plan, we stuck to it and we had a couple shots go in, which was nice,” Berry said. “The one thing we haven’t had consistently is the shooting percentage. When we’re shooting well we can beat anybody, and we showed that tonight for the first few minutes.”
“Both times we played them they stayed with us,” Wolfington said of the Bulldogs’ previous 45-30 and 60-31 wins. “I think we kind of knew they would try to slow it down. Coach just said focus on rebounding.”
Wolfington scored 10 of Hall-Dale’s 12 points in the first quarter and had 15 at the half. Buck also chalked up six in the second period, staking the Bulldogs to a 26-18 lead.
That was larger than the three and five-point leads the Bulldogs previously enjoyed over the Saints at intermission.
“(Those times) we basically ran out of steam. The girls are in better condition now and we haven’t been running out of gas,” Berry said. “They just got hot and shot the lights out on us, and we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean from the second quarter on.”
Caron hit back-to-back jumpers out of the half to get the Saints within four, but eight straight points from the Bulldogs helped put it out of reach.
Allison Crockett ran down one of nine offensive rebounds by the Bulldogs in the quarter and found Buck for a 15-footer. Wolfington also had two baskets in the run to go with a pair of Nicole Pelletier free throws.
Then all eyes turned to Wolfington, who was half of the one-two punch with Taylor Massey on last year’s championship team.
“She epitomizes what a student-athlete should be. She’s a great athlete but she’s a better kid,” Terrill said. “To have her name immortalized on our gym wall is very special. She deserves it more than anyone I’ve ever coached.”