AUGUSTA – Having already turned the trick once, the Winthrop girls’ basketball team was hoping to repeat its success against Hall-Dale in Thursday’s semifinal matchup.

Unlike their regular-season finale victory, the Ramblers discovered a win over the Bulldogs wouldn’t come as easily this time around.

Fourth-seeded Winthrop played catch-up for much of its Western C semifinal game. Though the Ramblers were on Hall-Dale’s heels down the stretch, Winthrop came up short in a 61-57 loss.

The top-ranked Bulldogs (19-1), which had a perfect regular season spoiled by Winthrop in a 68-57 loss to end the regular season, advanced to the Western C final for the third straight time and face Dirigo on Saturday night.

“We’re a veteran team,” said Hall-Dale coach Sam Hayes. “If we can’t handle it by now, we’re never going to. I think we did handle things fairly well. I thought we took care of the ball at the end of the game when we needed to. I just wish we did a little more between the first and third quarters.”

Winthrop (15-5) rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the game and led by as many as six in the third quarter, but Hall-Dale raced ahead and were up 43-36 early in the fourth, before the Ramblers charged back. Winthrop tied the game twice and led briefly midway through the quarter.

The Ramblers got within 56-55 with 1:26 left and had a chance to take the lead after a steal by Lindsey Gordon. When she went in for the layup, she collided with Hall-Dale’s Caitlyn Laflin and was called for an offensive foul with 28 seconds left.

“I just smiled,” said Winthrop coach Sam Farrell, declining to comment further on the play.

Hall-Dale got two free throws from Laflin after a technical foul for spiking the ball, and Heather St. Pierre added another free throw for the four-point lead.

“Until you actually regain a lead, you can’t establish yourself enough,” said Hayes. “I think mentally, it wears you down. It’s definitely better playing with the lead.”

Laflin led the Bulldogs with 31 points. Chelsey Dionne added 11. Emilie Knight, who reached the 1,000-point milestone in the loss, had 23 for the Ramblers, while Katie Pushard had 19.

Laflin picked up three fouls in the first quarter and Dionne later would get in foul trouble. That took the steam out of the Bulldogs offense for the first three quarters.

“You can’t take two 1,000-point scorers and put them on the bench and expect your offense to be fluid,” said Hayes.

Winthrop overcame the early deficit and built a 31-25 lead early in the third quarter. Hall-Dale’s Katie Frett put the Bulldogs ahead with six points during a 12-0 run.

Hall-Dale had the lead up to seven with scores by Dionne and Laflin off Winthrop turnovers to start the fourth.

Pushard helped lead the Winthrop charge and scored seven straight to tie the game 43-43 with 6:12 left.

“Katie gives every ounce of what she has everytime she’s on the court,” said Farrell. “She laid it on the line tonight. She hit the deck more than anybody. She almost drove us to that win.”

A three-point play by Knight with 5:11 left put the Ramblers ahead, but Laflin hit a pair of free throws and then drilled a 3-pointer.

The Ramblers continually fought back, but were plagued by six turnovers in the final quarter and fouls. Hall-Dale hit 13 free throws in the final quarter.

“It wasn’t them scoring on their first chance,” said Farrell. “It was on the second and third opportunities. They outrebounded us, and that probably won the game.”

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