AUGUSTA – The collision could have easily taken down its hopes along with its top scorer.

But, it didn’t.

Even as another starter’s temperature climbed higher, the determination of the Oxford Hills girls’ basketball never waned.

What the Vikings lacked in healthy bodies Wednesday afternoon, they more than made up for with a strong will and determined spirit. Taking on tradition-rich Cony, significantly shorthanded Oxford Hills pushed the Rams to the limit. Playing without Terry Bunce, the Vikings took a lead into the final quarter but could not hold on in a gusty 36-27 loss.

“We just realized that other people were going to have to step up and take her role on,” said senior forward Allie Fox. “We were going to have to play a different style of basketball than we’re used to.”

The Vikings lost Terry Bunce to a knee injury during practice Tuesday. Bunce, the team’s top scorer and KVAC First Team All-Star, scored 32 points in two regular-season losses to the Rams.

As if losing Bunce wasn’t enough, the Vikings other outstanding guard, Kari Pelletier, was ill with the flu. It left the Vikings significantly handicapped offensively against the highest-scoring team in the Eastern A tournament.

It was an uphill battle all the way for the Vikings, playing the Rams at its home away from home in Augusta.

“I wasn’t really sure how we were going to handle it,” said Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier. “The girls really stepped up. Some girls played different roles than they normally play, like handling the basketball. “

Lauren Brett did a fine job in the backcourt. Melanie Cloutier, Lindsay Fox and Teira Durgin all chipped in nicely to help Pelletier and fill the void left by Bunce. Meanwhile, Katherine Martin, Kyla Martin, Fox and Megan Joyce did fine work packing in the paint.

“The girls played their hearts outs,” said Pelletier. “That’s all I can ask for. They did everything I asked them to do and more.”

Cony averaged 66 points and are dangerous when they run the court. Although the Vikings also like to play uptempo, the plan was to slow down the Rams and forcing them to a perimeter game.

“We just packed it in and said if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to beat us by shooting the 3s,” said Pelletier.

Cony shot 4-for-27 through the first three quarters and went more than 10 minutes without a point during one stretch.

The Vikings didn’t shoot much better, but mustered enough offense to build a lead and hold it into the final quarter. Cloutier led the Vikings (16-4) with six points, while Fox and Pelletier each had five.

“We depend a lot on our inside-outside game, and when the outside game isn’t really working for us as well as we like, we depend more on our inside,” said Cony senior Cassie Cooper, who had nine points. “They were playing really tight inside.”

A drive by Brett and a jumper by Pelletier put the Vikings up 6-5 after the first quarter. A steal by Brett and a hoop by Joyce in the post had the lead up to five in the second. Durgin made it 13-7 with a 3-pointer later in the quarter. Though Cony got within two on Rachael Mack (12 points) free throws, a Joyce jumper at the buzzer made it 15-11.

A three-point play by Durgin to open the second half built the lead up to seven, but Cony answered by scoring the next eight points. A 3-pointer by Chelsea Arbour tied it, but a Durgin 3-pointer enabled the Vikings to hold a 21-20 lead after three.

The Rams took the lead for good early in the fourth. After a 3-pointer by Fox tied it, Mack fed Cooper in the post.

“We needed to get into our groove,” said Cooper. “That was our groove in this game, getting the ball inside. Just those couple helped us get on our run.”

A pair of Fox free throws tied it with 4:06 left, but Cooper hit a pair of foul shots, and Heather Pratt put back a rebound to put the Rams ahead for good.

The Vikings wore down in the final quarter and finished shooting just 1-for-8.


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