SOUTH PARIS — Oxford Hills faced an uphill battle before Thursday night’s KVAC clash with Mt. Blue even began. The climb only got steeper when the Cougars quickly demonstrated they could handle the Vikings’ zone defense.

Mt. Blue moved the ball crisply on offense and showed little mercy on defense and handled short-handed Oxford Hills, 49-38, in both teams’ season finale.

Miranda Nicely led the Cougars (12-6) with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Gabby Foy chipped in with 12 points and Mackenzie Conlogue with nine points. The Vikings (11-7), playing without star senior point guard Abbie Eastman (illness), were led by Crystal West, Kelsey DeBlois and Brooke Murch with six points apiece.

Nicely scored the game’s first seven points, setting the tone with a 3-pointer that sparked a 5-for-8 first half from beyond the arc for the Cougars.

The Cougars made the Vikings pay for pressuring the point, consistently finding gaps in the zone with good ball movement. Foy drilled three 3-pointers in the half, including a pair during an 11-4 run to start the second quarter.

“We went inside-outside, just moved the ball and got good looks,” Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick said.

The Vikings countered by going inside, cutting the lead to four early in the second quarter on a nice feed by Tianna Sugars to Murch. But the Cougars soon cut off the passing lanes into the paint, and Alyssa Williams and Foy hit back-to-back 3’s to send the lead into double digits at 26-15.

“I liked our defensive intensity,” Philbrick said. “I liked our help-and-recover. We weren’t just helping. We were getting back to the ball. We stopped a lot of penetration. But you’ve got to look at it, without Abbie Eastman, that makes our job easier.”

“Any team that loses a top-five player in the state is going to struggle at times,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “What I told the girls at the beginning was let’s see what you guys can do as individuals, because whatever they showed us today they can bring to the tournament. I felt like a bunch of kids stepped up in certain roles.”

The Vikings, who trailed by nine at the half, got some good looks in the second half but had several shots go halfway down before rimming out and could never get any closer. Mt. Blue, which beat Oxford Hills by 19 early season after its point guard, Amy Hilton, went down with an injury, limited the Vikes to 24 percent shooting (8-for-33) in the second half and led by as much as 19 in the fourth quarter.

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