LEWISTON — Jayden Colby wanted the ball.

After two missed free throws and the game on the line Friday, the Oxford Hills senior craved another chance.

“I was ready,” Colby said. “I was ready to make them. I got my misses out, and I was ready to go.”

After the Vikings struggled offensively, especially down the stretch, there wasn’t anybody better for the Vikings to have at the free throw line. Colby sank eight from the foul line in the final 3:31 to lift Oxford Hills to a 36-31 win over Lewiston.

“It’s tough to find a kid that wants it at the end of the game, and she really does,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said.

Colby finished with 11 points. Tianna Sugars added eight for the Vikings (7-3), while Erin Morton had seven. Oxford Hills shot 0-for-5 from the floor in the fourth quarter and watched Lewiston tie the game with 6:39 left. From there, the Vikings knew the foul line might be the best option for offense.

“We tell each other as coaches, ‘Let’s get the lead and finally, let’s just sit on it. Today’s not our day, but we can make free throws.'” Pelletier said. “There was one possession where we took 45 seconds off the clock. Tianna got fouled, and she’s our second-best foul shooter. After that, Jayden got the ball. We were pretty confident that she was going to hit them.”

Lewiston was down 13-2 in the first quarter but slowly battled its way back. The Blue Devils tied it with a Kristina Blais drive early in the fourth. After Oxford Hills took the lead, Lewiston was within two twice and three points once but couldn’t overcome the deficit.

Blais finished with 13 and was a significant spark for Lewiston’s comeback. Morgan Eliasen added eight for the Blue Devils (6-5).

“They played their hearts out tonight,” said Lewiston coach Lynn Girouard, whose team is ranked sixth in the Class AA North standings with Oxford Hills in fourth. “We tied it up at one point, and I thought, ‘This is going to be it.’ We had our chances. Some fall and some don’t.”

After Blais tied the game with 6:39 left, Sugars gave the Vikings the lead back with two free throws with 4:06 left. Colby padded the lead with two from the line, making it 30-26 with 3:31 left.

Eliasen scored off a Victoria Harris pass with 3:12 left to make it 30-28. After four straight free throws, the Vikings missed four straight. Colby missed a pair of those misses.

“I wanted the ball back,” Colby said. “I wasn’t happy that I missed them, but I was happy that I missed them when I did. I had to get them out of my system.”

Oxford Hills milked the clock and forced Lewiston to foul down the stretch. Colby hit a pair with 51 seconds left and added two more with 40 seconds left. That bulked the lead to 34-28. Lewiston still had life, especially after a 3 from Blais with 11 second remaining. Colby sank two more from the line to seal it.

The Vikings started the second quarter 0-for-8 from the field and finished 1-for-10. In the second half, Oxford Hills was 3-for-9 in the third and 0-for-5 in the fourth. The Vikings also were plagued by 24 turnovers.

“It’s what we needed to win the game,” said Colby, who didn’t even know that the Vikings had been shutout from the floor in the fourth. “When Coach said that at the end of the game, I did not realize that. At least we hit the foul shots.”

Oxford Hills jumped out to a quick 13-2 lead in the first quarter. That included nine straight. Lewiston had 10 turnovers and missed its first five shots.

“When you start the first quarter scoring only two, we kind of dug ourselves a hole,” said Girouard, whose team finished with 27 turnovers.

Morton and Sugars each had four points in the first while Erin Eastman hit a 3. Lewiston didn’t get on the board until a Blais drive with 1:37 left. Sugars and Morton answered that with baskets for the 11-point lead.

“We did settle down,” Girouard said. “We were excited for this game. We definitely thought this was a winnable game for us. I think we came out a little too strong.”

Lewiston worked out the nerves and got within 14-8 in the second thanks to three points from Harris, a jumper from Eliasen and a free throw from Alasia Branche. Colby hit a 3 with 31 seconds left to make it 17-8, and the Vikings went to the half up 18-10.

Blais led the charge in the third with six points while Eliasen had four. A 6-1 spurt to open the quarter got Lewiston within 19-16. Oxford Hills built an eight-point lead on baskets by Jadah Adams and Allyssa Hanley, but Lewiston finished the quarter with six straight. Eliasen and Harris each scored off rebounds and Blais scored off a steal. That made it 26-24 after three quarters.

Though Lewiston managed to tie the game in the fourth, the Blue Devils had some key turnovers and missed shots that could have turned the tide. Branche and Harris both fouled out. Meanwhile, Colby hit the free throws when they mattered most.

“She’s proven that she’s capable of making big free throws in big games,” Pelletier said. “She did it last year at Mt. Blue. She’s done it a couple of times this year already when we needed her to make free throws. We’re very confident she can make them.”

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