BANGOR – It was the first time this basketball season that Doug Lisherness truly liked what he saw.

So after his Mt. Abram Roadrunners beat Madison at home in early January, he posted a sign in the girls’ locker room that said: “Our goal is to go for the gold.”

“We read that and thought, ‘This really is a possibility,'” said senior Logahn Walker. “That’s what stuck in our minds.”

It has been the Roadrunners’ purpose ever since, and Saturday night, Mt. Abram completed that mission with a 55-52 win over Dexter at the Bangor Auditorium to claim the Class C state championship.

“I thought maybe we were going to turn it around,” Lisherness said of that Madison victory that had been preceeded by some lackluster efforts. “Then when we went over and lost that game at Dirigo, I thought the girls played extremely well. I came away thinking that we were back and we were playing the kind of basketball that we did this summer. I couldn’t believe that the girls turned it around like that. In a matter of one game, they turned it around. I’d like to take credit for that, but I can’t. The girls did it on their own.”

The Roadrunners have been wowing their coach and others ever since. Mt. Abram finished the season with nine straight wins to claim their first state title since 1991. That includes clean sweeps on the floor at Augusta and Bangor, two venues none of the players had played on before.

“We don’t really know the words to describe it,” said sophomore guard Kenni Norton. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

The Roadrunners (17-6) broke open a lead in the third quarter and maintained control the rest of the way to dethrone the defending Class C champs. Dexter’s 6-foot-6 center Mallory Ames finished with 18 points but was held to just six in the first half. Mt. Abram’s junior center Janessa Thomas did a superb job defending Ames while trying to force her away from the basket.

“She’s a handful,” said Thomas, who also finished with 11 points. “I played her this summer. So I knew what it was like, but it was very difficult because she’s really strong. I tried to keep her out from the block, at least eight feet out.”

Ames’ presence disrupted the Roadrunners inside game, but Mt. Abram found other ways to score. Walker led the team with 17 points, coming mostly from nifty drives or perimeter shots. Norton added 15 points from the outside. Brittany York added seven in the post and Morgan Cummings chipped a pair of key outside jumpers.

“That’s what’s happened with this team all year,” said Lisherness. “We’ve had good balanced scoring. Thank God it happened again tonight.”

Dexter (20-2) did get contributions from players other than Ames. Katie Poirier had 16 while Miranda Gove had eight, but the Tigers also struggled at times against the Roadrunners’ pesky defense. Though Dexter solved the press better than Mt. Abram would have like, the defensive pressure still caused 25 Dexter turnovers. In the final quarter, Dexter managed just four shots from the floor in the first seven minutes.

“Twenty five, that’s way too many,” said Dexter coach Jody Grant. “It wasn’t our night. We battled back at times. We played hard, but things just didn’t go our way.”

With Ames on the bench with two fouls in the second quarter, Dexter still trailed just 29-27 at the half, but Ames picked up her third foul early in the second half. Mt.Abram also opened the lead. Walker hit a jumper and York sank a free throw for a 3-0 run that made it 32-29. Minutes later, the Roadrunner scored seven straight to build an eight-point lead. After a Thomas rebound, Norton hit a short jumper and then drilled a 3-pointer for a 39-31 advantage.

“That was huge, really big,” said Norton. “It pulled Mallory Ames out, which gave us a lot of help. Because of our lead, we drove and got more aggressive. Our adrenaline was flowing.”

Dexter got within 42-39 after an Ames basket and Gove drive, but Walker answered with a basket. She then set up York inside. After two free throws by Chelsea Chambers made it 46-42 with 5:00 left, a Walker steal led to a Norton breakaway. Walker later drove to the hoop for a three-point play and hit a pull-up jumper to make it 53-43 with 1:44 left.

“She had a tremendous game,” said Lisherness. “She went in there a couple of times on Ames and scored. I was like, ‘Logahn, what are you doing?’ She just went in and scored on layups.”

Dexter finished with a 9-2 run, including an Ames 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was the only Dexter perimeter shot all night.

“It’s amazing,” said Walker. “It was all unexpected at the beginning of the year. We weren’t playing as a team, and we weren’t playing with confidence at all.”

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