LIVERMORE FALLS – Is it February yet?

Monmouth Academy and Livermore Falls High School surely dropped a few hints that it’s almost time to flip the calendar page to every high school basketball fan’s favorite month. All somebody needed to do Wednesday night to manufacture some Augusta aura was plant some television cameras, add 30 feet of open air behind each basket and create the wafting smell of hot dogs and popcorn..

Even the end result was positively tournament-like. Monmouth rallied on three separate occasions to force overtime, and junior Jen Lola scored five of her eight points in the extra session to make the Mustangs a 50-47 winner in a Mountain Valley Conference girls’ thriller.

“We needed that,” said Monmouth coach Rick Amero. “We needed a win like this on the road in a hostile environment against a good ball club. Livermore Falls played their guts out. That was tough, physical, typical MVC basketball.”

Cortney Barrett led the Mustangs (12-2) with 14 points and 13 rebounds, including three buckets early in a fourth quarter that saw Monmouth gain and then give away a six-point lead.

The Mustangs weren’t finished, however. Brittany Scirica’s 3-pointer tied it at 43 with 1:05 remaining in regulation, and Lola (15 rebounds, three steals) carried that momentum into OT with a hoop and three free throws in the first two minutes.

Caryn Howell answered with a put-back for Livermore Falls. The Andies (8-6) had a handful of chances to claw within one or tie it again down the stretch, but Lola delivered two crucial defensive rebounds and later a held ball to set up Jill Armstrong’s clinching free throws with 27 seconds remaining.

“It was a tough game, but we just wanted it more,” Barrett said. “The intensity in this gym was just amazing. I don’t think we’ve ever played an up-tempo game for a whole game like that.”

Neither the pace nor the tension were new for Livermore Falls, whose last three games have been decided by three points or less. The Andies matched almost every flourish by the Mustangs, building an eight-point lead in the second quarter and then reconstructing a seven-point margin in the third.

Rachel Ventrella led Livermore Falls with 14 points and six steals. She hit her fourth 3-pointer of the night with 6:16 remaining in the fourth quarter to halt a 13-0 Monmouth run. Less than two minutes later, Marjorie DeBrosky (12 points, seven rebounds) followed Rebecca Leclerc’s hoop with a steal and lay-up to reclaim the lead at 41-40.

“That was a playoff level and a playoff intensity,” said Livermore Falls coach Frank Donald. “It’s one of those situations where you wouldn’t be afraid to see them again.”

Monmouth fell in a 12-5 hole on 2-of-16 shooting in the first quarter before getting five players into the scoring column with an 8-for-11 hot streak in the second. Armstrong, Lindsey Scirica, Barrett and Samantha Fairchild each scored in a run of eight unanswered points.

Kendra Lyman’s free throw with one second left gave Livermore Falls a 24-23 halftime lead. The Andies eventually went up 32-25 before a scoreless skein of more than six minutes. Fairchild and Barrett each made a steal during that Monmouth comeback.

“Our defense is our strength,” said Barrett, “and our offense just finishes up.”

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