Winthrop’s Kena Souza, right, guards Monmouth’s Katie Harris on Wednesday in Winthrop. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

WINTHROP — Winthrop came out of the gates with ferocity on the offensive and defensive boards, creating many extra possessions and building a substantial lead in the first half.

The Ramblers weathered rallies by Monmouth Academy in the second half and were buoyed by senior leadership to hang onto a 60-53 girls basketball win Wednesday.

In the first quarter, Winthrop (2-0) out-rebounded Monmouth (2-1) 13-6 and jumped out to an 11-8 lead.

Kent Souza scored five of her eight points in the first quarter, and even though the Ramblers had just a three-point lead, they made a statement.

“They came out wanting it more,” Monmouth coach Katie McAllister said. “Our mindset changed in the second half and we stayed with it basically the whole time. they came out wanting it more — more hungry, with more intensity — and that’s what got us in that deficit.”

Winthrop’s stellar rebounding wasn’t a fluke. Coach Joe Burnham said his team has worked on it extensively in recent practices.

“We put a lot of emphasis on our rebounds this past week, especially long rebounds,” Burnham said. “We know that they’re a deep-shooting team, so that really worked out well for us. We have some really athletic girls that don’t wait for the ball to hit the floor to go jump and get it. That helps us when we are not necessarily as tall.”

Winthrop’s Natalie Frost, left, defends Monmouth’s Libby Clement on Wednesday in Winthrop. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Winthrop started finding the bottom of the net in the second quarter, and five players scored in the frame. Madison Forgue hit two 3-pointers, while Aaliyah WilsonFalcone and Natalie Frost each added seven points.

The offense was clicking because the Ramblers were executing their sets.

“Just the screens. We run double in our man-to-man offense and the screens always get me open and I always go to the open area that they’ve provided, and it’s a strong help to get points,” Frost, who finished with 12 points, said.

Monmouth’s Katie Harris scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the second quarter thanks in part to point guard Audrey Fletcher’s facilitation.

Winthrop took a 14-point lead into the third quarter, but quickly lost a chunk of it.

Fletcher tallied three assists in the third as the Mustangs opened the second half on a 10-1 run and cut the deficit to as little as 39-34 in the period.

Winthrop’s Kena Souza, right, guards Monmouth’s Abby Flanagan on Wednesday in Winthrop. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

“Basically, just get our minds right,” McAllister said of her halftime adjustments. “We had to relax, take a chill pill. Sometimes when we get into these high-intensity games, we need to learn how to relax and play our game. Don’t change what we do, because what we do is excellent, but sometimes we lose focus when there is a lot of intensity in our faces.”

Neither team backed down, and Winthrop stepped up its defense and went on 10-2 run of its own.

“We always get up in passing lanes because we have some of the fastest people in the state here,” Frost said. “We always get up in the passing lanes, and we always have each other’s back.”

The Ramblers collected 10 steals and forced a lot of turnovers, including two five-second violations, over the course of the game. Frost led the team with four points in the third, but the Mustangs kept bouncing back.

In the fourth, Monmouth kept attacking. Harris scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in the final frame, and Fletcher, Alexa Allen and Abby Flanagan each hit a trey.

“I love that we didn’t quit,” McAllister said. “At no point did we quit, even in the last 10 seconds we were still going after the ball. That’s hard to find.”

Winthrop’s Sage Fortin, left, and Monmouth’s Amaya Bauer dive for the ball Wednesday in Winthrop. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Flanagan finished with 10 points, and Fletcher scored eight.

Burnham credited his seniors for holding onto the lead when things got rough.

“We weathered that storm, we had some quick offensive possessions that we needed to work out, and Natalie out there really provided some senior leadership and slowed us down, and every time they needed a big basket she was able to stave off what they were doing and put the ball in the basket,” Burnham said.

WilsonFalcone led the Ramblers with 13 points. Forgue finished with 10, and Souza and Jillian Schmelzer each scored eight.


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