AUGUSTA – Kaylie DeMillo and Jay High School probably won’t endure a tougher afternoon or evening than they muddled through Tuesday at Augusta Civic Center.

Since the Tigers are still around to talk about it, that’s a scary thought indeed for the remainder of the Western Class C girls’ basketball tournament field.

DeMillo scored 25 points on 6-of-25 shooting from the field and 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. Just as importantly, she made 14 steals to jolt No. 3 Jay past No. 6 Madison, 46-40, in a quarterfinal collision of all-too-familiar Mountain Valley Conference foes.

Jay (13-6) gave away a 10-point lead in the third quarter before DeMillo scored 11 points in the fourth to stave off Madison’s spirited upset bid. Brianna Beisaw redirected a missed DeMillo 3-pointer for her lone field goal of the game and the go-ahead hoop with 4:37 remaining.

“They were just playing straight man-to-man in the first half, but they were bringing a lot of help side (defense), and it was kind of frustrating,” said DeMillo. “We just tried to be more patient in the second half.”

By completing a three-game season sweep of its league rival, Jay earned a berth in the semifinals of what has become the customary MVC Invitational. Jay will face Winthrop, a quarterfinal winner over previously undefeated Waynflete, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Nobody other than DeMillo in orange-and-black scored more than six points, but Jay enjoyed contributions throughout the lineup.

Liz LeBlanc prolonged an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter with a crucial layup off an inbounds pass from Beisaw. Kristen Adams canned two free throws in the final stanza for her only points of the game. Freshman Hillary Deane and Mallory Bonnevie combined for nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

And DeMillo? Even when her shots rattled off the back iron, and even when teammates couldn’t convert her crisp passes into lay-ups, her pivotal role in Jay’s 1-3-1 defense wreaked havoc while luring Madison starters Margo Russell, Lacey Ashbrook and Briann Emery into deep foul trouble.

“Kaylie led our conference with six steals a game, and she gets a lot of those at the back of that 1-3-1,” said Jay coach Chris Bessey. “She is so good at anticipating things. That’s why we have her back there.”

Madison (14-6) shot only 5-for-23 in the first half but heated up in a hurry before its comeback bid ran aground.

Russell rebounded from a two-point, three-foul opening half to hit three 3-pointers in an 18-6 surge. Mykayla Stoutamyer also dropped a deep 3-pointer to tie the game, and Jessica Hayden’s second-chance basket with 32 seconds remaining gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead.

Ashbrook answered DeMillo’s drive to open the fourth quarter with a free throw, and Emery retrieved the lead again at 33-32 on a spin through traffic for two with 5:25 left.

Madison didn’t score again until a flurry of seven points in the final 33 seconds. DeMillo spent much of the interim tiptoeing to the free-throw line and ending Madison’s season.

“She’s very tough,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said of DeMillo. “I thought Briann Emery played her tough the whole game, and Mykayla Stoutamyer also helped out and did a nice job. She just doesn’t quit. She has that shooter’s mentality.”

Russell led Madison with 14 points. Hayden added seven along with 10 rebounds off the bench.

Madison committed 25 turnovers to Jay’s 14.

“I’m just glad to be able to say we beat a team that good three times in one season,” Bessey said.

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