Four consecutive turnovers by the home team led to a 7-0 lead for the Cougars out of the starting blocks. Then the Phoenix hit six of seven shots, including three 3-pointers, to go up by six points on the opening possession of the second quarter.

Their next field goal? Twenty-two excruciating minutes of game time later, during which time Mt. Blue rallied to its fifth consecutive victory, 36-24.

Caitlin Kane scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half for Mt. Blue (8-7), which flustered Spruce Mountain (5-10) with a 1-2-2 zone throughout the game.

“We mixed it up a little bit more the first time we played them, and we usually do,” Mt. Blue coach Gavin Kane said. “That’s the first time all year we’ve stayed in one defense for 32 minutes.”

It forced, or at least tempted, the Phoenix to fire away from the perimeter all evening.

Between Haley Turcotte’s 3-pointer with 7:41 to go in the second period and Alex Bessey’s steal and layup with 1:41 remaining in the contest, Spruce Mountain missed 21 consecutive shots.

“We just didn’t make shots. A lot of it was their defense forced us into the shots that we took,” Spruce Mountain coach Chris Bessey said. “They’re a better team. They have more seniors on their team that are a little more experienced. Our inexperience shows a lot of the time.”

Alex Bessey scored eight of her team-high 13 points in the first quarter. Emily Hogan had all five of hers before the half, when the Phoenix trailed by two, 20-18.

Mt. Blue then redoubled it efforts to get the ball inside to Kane, demonstrated quickly by a 3-point play. Kane also notched a putback, two free throws and a drive for two in the quarter, vaulting the Cougars to a 29-21 advantage.

“They were switching back and forth out of their zone and a diamond-and-0ne on her,” Gavin Kane, Caitlin’s father, said. “We came out with a set play in the second half that we were able to work it into her in the post and get a quick score, and it got us off on the right foot starting the third quarter She’s been seeing a lot of that lately, and obviously when someone goes box-and-one, diamond-and-one on you, that’s when some other kids need to step up.”

Emilee Eustis and Eryn Doiron each scored five points in the first quarter and seven in the half while Spruce Mountain held Kane to two.

Bessey and Hogan hit consecutive 3-pointers to push the Phoenix in front late in the first quarter. That advantage grew to 16-10 on Turcotte’s steal and a Bessey fast break bucket, followed by Turcotte’s triple from the left corner.

Two Hogan free throws were the only additional first-half offense for Spruce, while four different Cougars scored during a run to put Mt. Blue on top.

Doiron’s steal led to her hoop after a Kane offensive rebound to make it 18-16. Leah St. Laurent answered Hogan with two freebies of her own, after a Spruce Mountain turnover, to land the halftime lead.

“Our goal coming in was to not get outworked, and I don’t think they really worked harder than we did,” Chris Bessey said.

Mt. Blue effectively used the four-corner offense in the fourth quarter, highlighted by two Kane baskets and second-chance hoop by Olivia Ryan after the missed front end of a one-and-one.

It clinched a season sweep for the Cougars and Gavin Kane, who coached Spruce Mountain’s current juniors and seniors two years ago.

“I didn’t want to say too much to the kids before the game, but having coached here I know it’s not an easy place to play,” Kane said. “It’s a 94-foot floor. The acoustics are different. The shooting background is different. We’re glad to get out with a win.”

Spruce Mountain is likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in school history, despite point-worthy games against Wells, Leavitt and MCI remaining.

“If we’d won all four, I think we definitely would have gotten in,” Bessey said. “Win the next three and we’ll probably need some help.”

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