BANGOR – Now, finally, there’s no question as to who has the bear soul.

Throughout the tournament, the raucous Mt. Abram fans chanted in unison, “Who’s got the bear soul?”

Their query filled arena’s from Augusta to Bangor, and Saturday, the girls’ basketball team answered with authority. The Roadrunners “beared” it all and proved they indeed had the bear soul.

“That was passed down to us through our boys’ basketball team because bears have a lot of soul and they’re really aggressive,” said senior guard Stephanie Coburn. “So when the boys’ lost in the preliminary, they passed that along to us and told us to go all the way. I think we did this for them as well as us, too.”

Though Mt. Abram’s mascot is the Roadrunner, the teams saw a need for a tougher identity. Those “bear essentials” were a must in beating Dexter for the Class C state title at the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday.

“Roadrunners aren’t aggressive at all,” senior guard Logahn Walker said. “Bear soul is ‘Grrrrr.’ You have to have the heart to win and stuff like that. When you hear them chanting, it relaxes you in a way. It’s kind of a joke, but it relaxes you.”

So against Dexter, the Mt. Abram girls had a little more “grrrrrowl” than “Beep! Beep!”. They were a ferocious enough bunch to make Wile E. Coyote look for other prey.

“It’s definitely the hardest we’ve worked,” said Coburn, whose team also was awarded the Western C sportsmanship banner. “We definitely had to work to get (Mallory) Ames out of there. Janessa (Thomas) and Brittany (York) did a great job on her. We did a good job keeping their perimeter players outside, and they weren’t able to drive in.”

Thomas and York had a sizable challenge in defending Ames, the 6-foot-6 center who had averaged 25 points in the tournament. Thomas spent the night pushing and leaning on her. York helped by double-teaming her, but also had Dexter’s Katie Poirier to contend with. Ames was held to just six points in the first half, drawn into foul trouble and finished with 18.

The other Roadrunners were everywhere. Kenni Norton, Coburn, Walker, Mikayla Burbank and Morgan Cummings swarmed ballhandlers as Dexter tried to handle the Mt. Abram press. The Tigers solved it better than Mt. Abram liked, but the Roadrunners attacked the ball and made each possession “unbearable.” If it was in the air, they got hands on it. If it was on the ground, they dove for it. Dexter quickly learned that Mt. Abram had the “bear necessities” to win in a close battle. The Tigers committed 25 turnovers and were limited to four shots through the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.

“We knew if we were going to make it far, we had to work as a team,” said Norton, a sophomore guard. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t as close but Saturdays and Sundays, we hung out and went to dinner together. We went to Logahn’s house. We went to movies. We got really, really close.”

Dexter proved to be even a bigger challenge. In addition to handling the Roadrunners press, the Tigers set Ames up in the paint. Though Dexter is not a team that looks to shoot the ball, various Tigers chipped in and took the pressure off Ames. When she left the game with two fouls in the second quarter, Mt. Abram could only turn that into a two-point lead at halftime.

“Nothing came easy for us, it really didn’t,” said Mt. Abram coach Doug Lisherness. “Everything came hard.

Still, the Roadrunners “bearly” flinched at the challenge. Mt. Abram just dug a little deeper and found a way to win. Thomas and York had 11 and seven points in a game where offense in the paint wasn’t going to be easy. Players like Walker, Norton and Cummings all produced from the outside or on drives. Walker led the team with 17 while Norton had 15 and Cummings had five.

Norton built a lead in the third quarter with five points during a 7-0 run. Then Walker wasn’t to be denied in the fourth with nine points, often taking the ball right at Ames.

All the while, the boisterous Mt. Abram fans, a group that could make Eastern Maine student sections envious, cheered on – constantly asking “Whose got the bear soul?”

Before the Roadrunners hit the court, its crowd began cheering, catching a Dexter fan base in slumber. The visiting team quickly felt at home. The blue and gold contingent brought the noise and “bearly” let up until the only girls’ Gold Ball headed West was en route home. The crowd brought confidence, fearlessness and a whole lot of “bear soul” to the Roadrunners.

“That’s huge,” said Coburn. “With the crowd behind us, we know we play extra hard. I don’t think we would have played as well without them.”

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