MONMOUTH – Advance directly to Augusta. Do not pass through the preliminary round. Do not connect with dominant-as-ever Dirigo until a potential collision in the regional championship.

Too bad the Heal Points aren’t as simple as a roll of the dice in a board game. Monmouth Academy’s 38-32 victory Monday night over Georges Valley was a necessary first step for the Mustangs in their quest for a No. 3 seed in the Western Class C girls’ basketball tournament and the first-round bye that comes with it.

Winning at Boothbay on Wednesday night will help, too, but the final piece of the puzzle is out of Monmouth’s hands. Mountain Valley Conference rival Jay could pull off the equivalent of repossessing Boardwalk and Park Place and sneak into the three-hole if they somehow shock undefeated Dirigo that same night.

And anything’s possible in the MVC, as evidenced by this rough-and-tumble tourney tune-up. Monmouth (14-3) gutted out a win despite shooting 4-for-25 in the first half and 12-of-48 overall. The Mustangs also watched 6-foot-2 junior center Ashley Geel of Georges Valley put on a low post clinic with 25 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.

“It was definitely a test,” said Monmouth coach Rick Amero. “We just reminded the kids at halftime that they’re a good shooting team and to believe in themselves, and that wasn’t lip service.”

Georges Valley (7-10) disrupted Monmouth’s perimeter and penetrate-and-pitch game with a variety of zone defense looks, primarily the 2-3 and 1-3-1.

“We tried to mix it up. They’re so talented when they run the floor and dish the ball that we wanted to see what they could do against that,” said Georges Valley coach Rusty Worcester.

While the iron infuriated the Mustangs at times, their defense and depth never betrayed them. Monmouth forced 26 turnovers.

On an evening when offense was at a premium, Cortney Barrett led seven different Monmouth players in the scoring column with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Senior sisters Brittany and Lindsay Scirica added seven points apiece in their final home game. Both nailed a 3-pointer in the third period to help the Mustangs advance their tenuous 13-11 lead to a 26-21 cushion.

Jen Lola and Jill Armstrong each contributed six points, with Armstrong delivering two timely baseline buckets on back-to-back possessions in the fourth period.

“That’s how it’s been for Jill a lot of the season,” Amero said. “She’ll go quiet for a while and then make some big plays.”

With the exception of a few minutes where her foul situation was in the back of her mind, Geel was anything but quiet. She dropped an array of turnaround and fade-away jumpers from 12 feet and in, erupting for 10 points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth.

Nicole Poland and Aley Watts each knocked down their only field goal of the game to bring the Buccaneers within three points twice in the fourth quarter, the second on Watts’ layup off a drop pass from Geel with 2:52 remaining.

Monmouth faced another distraction when it lost Lindsay Scirica to a possible broken nose with just over three minutes left in regulation. After a five-minute delay and a few tears, though, the Mustangs buckled down. Katie Woodman hit one of two free throws with 1:29 to play, and Lola provided the final margin by draining both ends of a one-and-one with 43 seconds left.


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