AUGUSTA — Nerves? What nerves?

The freshmen on the Lawrence girls’ basketball team didn’t seem too jittery Friday night. Even when Mt. Blue started making a fourth-quarter charge, the young Bulldogs simply dug a little deeper and shrugged off any pressure.

“I think the nerves started to fade away at that point,” freshman center Nia Irving said. “We knew what we had to do. It was like any other game that we played in.”

Irving took charge and got a little help from Dominique Lewis. The two newcomers answered the Cougars’ rally and finished off their Eastern A quarterfinal with a 73-62 win.

It was just the second quarterfinal win for the Bulldogs since winning the state title in 1994. It was the second consecutive quarterfinal loss for the Cougars.

“I’m proud of the girls,” Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick said. “They worked hard. They gave me everything they had. I told them to keep their heads up. We just got beat by a better team.”

Irving led Lawrence (14-5) with 28 points while Lewis added 18. Paige Belanger had 13. Mt. Blue (12-7) got 18 each from Gabby Foy and Miranda Nicely.

Mt. Blue played from behind all game but made things interesting in the fourth. Down 48-41 to start the final quarter, the Cougars scored seven in a row to tie the game at 48-48. Foy took one to the basket and then hit a 3. MacKenzie Conlogue hit a short jumper and it looked like Lawrence was finally showing some nerves.

“We started taking the ball to the hole and going strong,” Philbrick said. “I thought Gabby Foy stepped up. Miranda stepped up. They were just playing their hearts out and didn’t quit.”

Foy had all 18 points in the second half to lead the charge.

“We were fighting, battling for our lives and trying to hang in there,” Philbrick said. “We were doing everything we could.”

Lawrence called time after Mt. Blue tied it and got refocused.

“The point of emphasis was for us to definitely get our heads back into the game,” Irving said.

From there, Irving and Lewis took over. They combined for 14 of the next 26 points.

“We have this telepathic thing going on,” Irving, who has played with Lewis since grade school, said. “We know when to get each other the ball.”

After Lewis broke the tie with 6:02 left, she converted a 3-point play off a rebound. She was then left alone in transition and given another 3-point play,  making it 56-48.

“We didn’t stop them,” said Philbrick, whose team had some costly defensive breakdowns in the fourth that left Irving open. “They scored 73 points. We didn’t have an answer for (Irving). We didn’t get the stops that we needed.”

Foy scored a 3-point play of her own to make 56-51. Then after an Irving basket, Conlogue scored to keep it at a five-point game with 3:54 left..

Belanger then had a three-point play and the Bulldogs made it an 8-0 run with free throws. If it wasn’t Irving doing damage in the post, Lewis or Belanger were hitting shots.

“If she’s not getting it, somebody else has to score, and that’s usually when I come in,” Lewis said.

Mt. Blue got as close as eight on a Nicely 3, but Lawrence finished the game on a 7-2 run.

Irving admitted she was nervous before the game, but she didn’t show it. She scored 10 points in the first quarter as Lawrence dominated the post. The Bulldogs built a 17-6 lead and the Cougars were playing from behind the rest of the way.

“We put someone on her front and back and left somebody else open on the side,” Philbrick said. “That kept the ball from getting to her. We had some success for a while.”

The Cougars were down 33-24 at the half and trailed by double digits in the third. Foy scored nine of Mt. Blue’s final 12 points in the third as the Cougars closed the gap to 48-41.


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