Jadah Adams of Oxford Hills puts up a shot while being defended by Chantel Ouellette of Edward Little High School in Auburn on Friday. Caroline Hammond (10) of Edward Little and Brooke Carson of Oxford Hills is at right. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — With four seconds left and the game tied, Edward Little’s Grace Fontaine lost control of her dribble and it bounced to Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby, who sprinted down the court and laid it off the glass and in as time expired to propel the Vikings to a 37-35 victory over the Red Eddies in each team’s season opener Friday.

“Honestly, you’re not thinking you’re going to get a steal for a layup to win the game, you’re just trying to manage it and get it to overtime,” Oxford Hills head coach Nate Pelletier said. “Luckily, we put enough pressure on and the ball kicked out. I didn’t think Julia had enough time to get from where she was to the basket, but she knew she did, she was flying.”

Colby finished the game with 12 points and saved her only bucket of the second half for the most crucial point in the game. Even with just a few ticks on the clock left, Colby knew she could score in time.

“I just had to stop at half court and look at the clock,” Colby said with a chuckle. “On defense, we were all thinking we needed to get a stop and not let them shoot, and on offense I was just thinking that I had to make it.”

The game was tight throughout with the largest lead by either team being a five points by Vikings early in the fourth.

When the Oxford Hills and Edward Little met in the Class AA playoffs a year ago, the game also came down to the final possession. Each coach knew Friday night’s game would be tight, and for EL head coach Chris Cifelli, bringing in new players and players into extended roles against one of the best teams in the conference proved to be a real challenge.

“We are still, admittedly, trying to figure things out,” Cifelli said. “It’s tough to have this be the first game of the season you play against arguably one of the best teams in the entire state. I think we are still trying to figure things and out and have people figure out what their roles are and bring some freshmen off the bench. What we were trying to do was get people in their roles, but they’re such a good defensive team by making every possession count.”

In the first quarter, Colby and Fontaine went back and forth. Each player scored eight points, with Fontaine making all four of her free throws and Colby hitting a couple of layups and a 3-pointer along with a free throw.

EL’s Hannah Chaput hit her first of two 3s of the game to start the second quarter after being benched because of fouls in the first. Jade Perry made a couple of blocks for the Eddies, but it wasn’t enough as Oxford Hills outscored EL 9-4 in the second with four players scoring for the Vikings.

“I liked how everyone chipped in,” Colby said. “There’s not one player that’s the star, we all contribute.”

In the third, it was Jade Smedberg’s turn to do the scoring for the Vikings. The junior made back-to-back layups to give Oxford Hills a four-point lead with under three minutes left in the quarter. Smedberg also scored two free throws to finish the quarter and game with six points.

After Smedberg’s layups, Fontaine brought the ball into the right corner, drove baseline and found Brooklyn Alexander for a long jumper to cut the deficit to two. Then, on the following possession, Alexander found Fontaine to tie the game.

Cifelli said that throughout the game Fontaine, who finished with a team-high 14 points, made plays in many different ways.

“She really makes us go, and we ask a lot from her,” Cifelli said of Fontaine. “Not only do we ask her to score, but she played point when we got in foul trouble and she does a lot of things defensively. So, down the stretch, it was kind of a no-brainer I wanted her to touch the ball in that last minute, for sure.”

The Vikings took a 31-29 lead into the fourth, and then Jadah Adams scored a layup to increase the lead to four. Adams battled on the boards with EL’s Perry all game.

Chaput later hit a 3 to cut the lead to one, and after a free throw by Oxford Hills’ Cassidy Dumont, Chaput got the ball again and with 1:07 left tied the game on a driving layup.

Baskets were at a premium for each team, and after last year’s playoff game, it was expected that Friday’s contest wouldn’t be decided until the end.

“It was a great atmosphere, it was a battle and both teams didn’t want to lose. I would have liked to score more than 37 points, but I thought defensively we played really well,” Pelletier said. “These kids know each other so well. They know each other’s strengths and you try to come out on top when you can.”

Caroline Hammond of Edward Little High School drives between Jadah Adams (22) and Maggie Hartnett of Oxford Hills as Jade Perry (12) of EL tries to assist during the second half in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Grace Fontaine of Edward Little High School passes from the baseline while being guarded by Cassidy Dumont of Oxford Hills during the fourth quarter in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Brooke Carson of Oxford Hills fires a jump shot over Jade Perry of Edward Little High School in Auburn on Friday. Caroline Hammond of EL is at left and Grace Fontaine of EL is in the background. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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