JAY — When Kristina Buck drilled a 3-pointer from the corner Wednesday night, it swung the pendulum back in Hall-Dale’s favor.

Just after Spruce Mountain had cut the deficit to one point, Buck’s 3 seized the momentum back and put the Phoenix in a pretty deep hole.

“We definitely knew we needed to come back,” said senior guard Kathryn Ventrella. “That’s a big lead in a game like this. Coach told us to keep our composure and settle down.”

The Phoenix did just that. First came the defensive effort. Spruce Mountain allowed just one Bulldog point the rest of the game. Then came the offense. The Phoenix had struggled with turnovers and missed shots but still finished with an 8-1 run that produced a 35-31 win over the defending Class C state champions.

“This is very exciting,” said Ventrella, whose Livermore Falls team lost to Hall-Dale in the Western C finals last year. “Hall-Dale is a good team. We really wanted to come out strong and pull out a win, and we did that.”

It was a battle of unbeatens. Hall-Dale (5-1) is third in Western C while Spruce Mountain (5-0) was ranked 12th before jumping up to seventh in Western B with the win.

“We talked before this game about this being our first signature win as a program and really hoping it would turn out that way,” said Spruce Mountain coach Gavin Kane. “Credit to the kids for really battling hard tonight. We battled through rookie mistakes and some bad turnovers, but we kept working hard and found a way to win down the stretch.”

The Bulldogs had averaged 54 points per game coming in, but the Phoenix gave them fits. Carylanne Wolfington battled foul trouble and the tenacious defensive effort of Alexi Deering. Deering, with a little help from Nicole Hamblin, held Wolfington to just eight points.

“Give all the credit to Spruce Mountain,” said Hall-Dale coach Brandon Terrill. “They played very tough defense. They’re up in the passing lanes. They’re up in your face. They made it difficult to execute our offense. Alexi Deering did a great job on Wolfington, playing tough on her all night.”

Ventrella led the Phoenix with 10 points and had a couple key assists in the fourth quarter. Emily Keene added eight while Victoria Ouellette, Deering, Samantha Richards and Hamblin all chipped in with four.

“We definitely had some young girls stepping up and the entire team as a whole really came together,” said Ventrella.

The Phoenix  built a 22-13 lead early in the third. Ventrella had eight points during that stretch, including a pair of 3’s. Hall-Dale responded with its strongest quarter and ran off eight straight and finished the third with a 10-2 run. The Bulldogs scored four straight to open the fourth, taking a 27-24 lead.

A pair of Richards free throws cut the lead to 27-26 with 5:24 remaining, but Buck answered with her 3 from the corner. Between the turnovers and missed shots, that four-point advantage loomed large.

“I was pleased with how we responded after they went up by four,” said Kane. “We turned the ball over a couple of times and would hang our heads. We made some mistakes, but we did a nice job down the stretch and were really determined to pull that game out.”

After nine turnovers in the third and starting the fourth 0-for-5 from the field, the Phoenix settled down. After free throws by Ventrella and Deering cut the lead to 30-28, a Ventrella steal helped set up the tying basket. She fed Keene in the post on an inbounds pass to make it 30-30 with 3:25 left.

After getting the ball back, Ventrella fed Richards in the post. She missed her first shot but was relentless on the rebound to make it 32-30 with 2:58 left.

“I thought in that stretch, (Richards) came in and played great for them, absolutely huge,” said Terrell. “She had a couple rebounds and free throws. A lot of credit to her. She came in and played great.”

Hall-Dale tried to counter but shot just 2-for-13 in the fourth. That included four straight misses on one trip down the floor. Deering and Wolfington traded free throws late. Then when Wolfington fouled out in the final minute, Deering added single free throws down the stretch to pad the lead.

“I’m pleased for the most part with our defense,” said Kane. “If we can hold them to 31 points, even though we struggled some on the offensive end of the floor, that should be enough to get us some good wins.”

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