AUGUSTA – Glen Chase liked the play so much, he wanted to borrow it from the Mt. Blue boys’ basketball team.

The only problem for Chase and his hopes of executing it with his Winthrop girls Thursday was that it wouldn’t work. Well, not exactly.

Instead of getting the ball to Katie Pushard on an inbounds pass, Brianna Tupper had to settle for a wide open Justine Woodman near the left of the foul line. For a third option, Woodman was a pretty good choice.

The junior guard hit a short jumper in the closing seconds to lift Winthrop to a stunning 43-42 win over Jay in a Western C semifinal.

“I think I was close to one of the last options on the out-of-bounds play,” said the junior guard. “I just saw the ball come towards me, and I was looking at the hoop.

“I was just looking and hoping it would go in. Then I saw the net go up and it swished.”

The Ramblers (11-10) advance to Saturday’s regional final to play Mt. Abram. It will be the first trip to the title game since losing to Dirigo in 2002.

“It’s amazing,” said Woodman, who was on the club last year that threatened to topple top-ranked Hall-Dale but came up short. “It’s been a struggle all year. Having a new coach, it’s been a big adjustment for us. Having Katie out at the beginning of the season, I think we came together well.”

Woodman finished with 10 while Pushard led the Ramblers with 12. Amanda Garwood and Lindsey Gordon added nine and eight points, respectively. Jay (13-7) got 25 from Kaylie DeMillo and eight from Liz LeBlanc, but the Tigers shot just 3-for-9 in the final quarter and had a critical turnover that gave the Ramblers a chance.

“I’m probably more disappointed in myself,” said Jay coach Chris Bessey. “In the fourth quarter, I did a poor job of coaching. I didn’t handle my composure. I think that carried over to my kids, and they didn’t handle their composure. It’s my responsibility in the fourth quarter to make sure my kids are composed.”

Trailing 42-41, Jay had possession and milked the clock down in the final minute, but Woodman gave the Ramblers new life when she stole the ball from DeMillo with 17 seconds left. After a time out, Pushard drew a block call and went to the foul line. She missed the first shot but had a crack at the rebound. That shot didn’t fall either. As both teams battled frantically for the rebound, Woodman got possession and tossed it off a Jay player as she fell out of bounds.

“I thought I was out, and I didn’t really know,” said Woodman. “I looked up at the ref, and didn’t know what he was going to call. When he called it for Winthrop, it was a big celebration.”

On the inbounds play, Chase had hoped to use the play Mt. Blue used the night before to tie Bangor. The Cougars had a player cut toward the corner, force the defender to commit and dash back beneath the basket for the entry pass.

“I saw Coach Bessey last night and tried to run the exact same play they ran, but they zoned it up and took it away,” said Chase, who then hoped the ball would come into Pushard or Gordon rolling to the basket. “Most of our plays, if you’re not the primary option, that’s what you do. You drift off. We check down and check down, and there’s the open shot.”

Woodman stood all alone behind the defense, but Tupper managed to spot her.

“I wasn’t really paying attention,” she said. “I was focusing on setting the screen for Amanda or Katie to get the shot. Then I just happened to see that I was open.”

It was a battle for the Ramblers the entire game. Between missed shots and foul trouble, Winthrop was juggling its lineup and trying to maintain some consistency. Jay was up by as many as 10 in the second quarter. Winthrop got 3-pointers by Pushard and Garwood to keep the Ramblers within reach. After a Woodman jumper, two free throws by Hillary Dean had Jay up 25-18 at the half.

The Tigers were up by as many as nine in the third, but the Ramblers trimmed it to four by quarter’s end. Free throws and a basket by Gordon and a drive by Pushard produced a 6-2 spurt that made it 36-32 after three.

A Pushard 3-pointer opened the fourth. Though Jay got scores by Brianna Beisaw and Deane to open a 40-35 lead, Winthrop finished the game with a 7-2 run.

“We just tried to be patient and run the offense and try to get a good shot,” said Bessey. “We did get some good looks. We missed some shots there at the end. That might have made them have to foul us, but we just couldn’t get any to go in.”

After a Gordon score, Kristen Adams scored on a drive for a Tiger 42-37 advantage, Pushard answered with a jumper, and Woodman converted a Pushard pass with 1:12 left to get within one.

“We came into it thinking about small stretches, four minutes at a time, and see where we’re at,” said Chase. “Every time we came off the floor, we took a deep breath, relaxed and refocused on what we needed to do next.”


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