SOUTH PARIS — Two weeks ago, a playoff berth appeared almost out of reach for the Oxford Hills girls’ basketball team, but now the Vikings nearly have a tournament spot in their grasp.

After a 41-28 win over Cony and their sixth straight win, the Vikings are 10-6 and closing in on one of the final seeds in Eastern A. Oxford Hills was behind the Rams two weeks, but after two wins over Cony in the last week, the Vikings have vaulted up to eighth. A Bangor loss to Skowhegan also helped the Vikings cause Friday.

“It’s win or go home,” said Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier, whose team finished with Lewiston and Mt. Ararat. “That’s what it’s been for awhile. The girls don’t want to go home. The team goal is to win out. We just have to play good basketball, and we want to win.”

Oxford Hills started the year 1-4 and lost all-star center Megan Joyce. It took time for the Vikings to adjust but the team is hitting its stride now. Facing what are basically playoff games for Oxford Hills down the stretch, the Vikings have been earning a possible postseason berth.

“We’ve just been going on a run and playing really well,” said senior forward Alli Nolan.

Nolan led the Vikings with 16 points, 12 came in the fourth quarter as Oxford Hills put the Rams away. Abbie Eastman and Brooke Ladd each added nine. Lindsay Fox finished with four and was recognized before the game as a nominee for the McDonald’s All-America team. She’s just one of seven Maine players to earn such an honor.

“We’ve been playing very well,” said Pelletier. “It took us awhile to figure out what we do. One thing we do best is that if we shorten the game it improves our chances. That’s what we’ve been doing the last two weeks, and we’ve been winning.”

The Vikings have been able to frustrate opponents with its aggressive defense and its slow down offense. Oxford Hills handles the ball well and tries to execute efficiently. It can be tough for teams to adjust to that pace, especially when they can’t get the ball. It was the second time this week Cony has been held under 30 points.

“We didn’t have the ball much,” said Cony coach Karen Sirois, whose team lost to Oxford Hills 44-37 last week. “It was kind of like a football game — whoever had the ball most wins. I know they took a lot of time off.”

Though the Vikings jumped out to a quick lead, thanks to the hot shooting of Ladd, Cony had a 12-10 lead early in the second. Oxford Hills then finished the half with an 8-3 run. Eastman had five free throws and Ladd added a 3-pointer to make it 18-15 at the half. The Vikings outshot Cony 14-2 at the foul line.

“We have Brooke Ladd who can’t miss right now,” said Pelletier. “We have Lindsay, Abbie and Caitlin (Hanley) as guards and Alli’s just dominating inside with rebounds. She’s been averaging 10 rebounds the last couple games.”

In the third, the Vikings held Cony to just 1-for-8 from the floor and extended the lead to 26-18. Fox, Eastman and Nolan scored. The Rams got their only basket on an Alyssa Marson 3-pointer with 2:23 left, but Nolan sank a pair of free throws for a 26-18 lead.

In the fourth, Nolan took over. She converted some nice feeds by Fox and Hanley to open the lead during an 8-2 run. Cony picked up the intensity and cut the lead to nine with 2:55 left, but Nolan hit basket in the paint and Fox, Nolan and Hanley all sank free throws down the stretch.

“We just played great when they were coming to trap us,” said Nolan. “I was wide open underneath.”


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