LIVERMORE FALLS — As they watched Friday’s boys’ basketball battle between Jay and Livermore Falls, Mark Simpson told his Andies to take notice. He wanted the girls to notice the pressure and intensity they saw in the boys’ showdown and expect the same thing Saturday night when the same rivals reunited in the girls’ game..

“All the girls were at last night’s game,” Simpson said. “I warned them, ‘That’s what’s it going to be like. They’re going to come at you all of the time. You’ve got to be ready to battle.'”

Simpson was correct, and the Jay Tigers presented quite the challenge, hoping to avenge an opening-night loss, but the Andies weathered that storm and completed the regular-season sweep of the Tigers, 46-43.

“It feels pretty good,” said Marissa Welch, a junior center. “We had to figure that they’re last year’s state champs, and that we still had to play tough.”

The Andies broke a tie game late in the third quarter and opened a seven-point lead in the fourth. Jay tried to rally, but Livermore Falls (7-3) fended them off and bounced up to the top seed in Western C with the win. 

“We just wanted to take charge,” Welch said of building the lead in the fourth. “It made us more motivated. We’re pretty much a second-half team, and it worked out the last two quarters.”

Welch led the Andies with 12 points, including five in the final quarter. Kathryn Ventrella and Hannah Therrien each had 10. Jay was led by Hillary Deane  with 15, while Mallory Bonnevie added 11.

The Tigers (5-3) were without Deane in the first meeting, but had won five of their last six games. Jay got the hot shooting hand in the second and opened up a seven-point lead, but the Tigers couldn’t hold it. When the Andies closed the game and took the lead in the second half, the Tigers couldn’t find the consistency on offense.

“We just couldn’t execute in the second half,” said Jay coach Chris Bessey, whose team is now ranked seventh in Western C. “That’s what it came down to.”

Jay was up 32-28 late in the third, but Ventrella hit two free throws, and Welch scored in the post to tie it. Then, Annika Durrell hit a corner jumper for the 34-32 lead. To start the fourth, the Andies continued to take advantage of Welch inside. She scored in the post to make it 36-32.

“She’s coming along,” Simpson said. “She’s real tentative around the hoop, but she’s getting more confident. That’s going to be us from now on. We’re going to pound it inside, and if it gets kicked out, both Kathryn’s (Lake and Ventrella) go to the hoop hard.”

Ventrella then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 39-32. That put Jay in a hole it spent the rest of the game trying to escape from.

“Welch made some shots inside,” Bessey said. “We decided we’d go zone and try to stop that. Then Ventrella hit a deep 3 and put them up. That was a big moment right there.”

Jay’s defense tried to bring the Tigers back. Livermore Falls made five turnovers in the fourth and struggled from the foul line, shooting 5 for 15. That enabled the Tigers to keep close, but Jay hit five-of-12 free throws and were 3-for-10 from the floor. Jay got within three on free throws by Deane with 3:04 left. Lake made it a four-point game, but Kelsea Beisaw hit a free throw with 2:33 remaining. Jay had chances to get closer but missed shots, and turnovers proved costly. The Tigers also didn’t get the calls it wanted. Jay had a steal in the final minutes and had a layup that was contested. Jay was expecting a foul call, but a travelling violation was whistled instead. Welch and Ventrella sank free throws to make it a 45-39 game with 25 seconds left.

“We battled back and got it to one possession,” Bessey said. “We had our opportunities. We got some bad breaks toward the end. I thought that could have made things a little different. That happens when you don’t get those breaks in a visiting gym.”

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