GARDINER — Playoff fever arrived in Gardiner, and, as it turns out, it will be sticking around into at least next week.

Behind 18 points and 10 rebounds from Kassidy Collins, the top-seeded Tigers rolled past No. 9 Mt. Blue 60-41 in a Class A/B quarterfinal in the central Maine basketball tournament on Thursday night.

Gardiner will host a semifinal game at a date and time to be determined next week.

“We worked so hard all year to get the top seed, we wanted to make sure that anyone who has a chance to beat us has to do it here,” said Gardiner head coach Mike Gray.

The Tigers turned in another strong defensive performance, applying constant pressure.

“When you play a team in the postseason that you haven’t played all season, it can be a big unknown in creating the right gameplan,” Gray said. “We rely on our defense normally, but we decided to take it to another level tonight.”

The Cougars made an effort to shut down standout Lizzy Gruber, leaving Collins and company several open jump shots.

“When we saw they were going to double Lizzy every time she touched the ball, we switched up the plan to take more jumpers,” said Collins.

In the first half, the Tigers were quick out of the gate while Mt. Blue showed some signs of rust, as they forced five Cougar turnovers in the first 90 seconds.

The highlight of the half came at the end of the first quarter, when Megan Gallagher hit a shot at the buzzer from just inside half court to push the Gardiner lead to 10.

The Tigers continued their tough defense in the second, and found their shot from long range, hitting two 3-pointers in the frame.

Gardiner’s full court pressure was too much for Mt. Blue at first, but Mt. Blue head coach Zac Conlogue called a timeout and settled his team down.

“We found the right motions on offense, we just couldn’t get inside and make our layups,” said Mt. Blue guard Katelyn Dagett, who paced the Cougar offense with a team-high 14 points.”

Gardiner ball handler McKenna Johnson, left, tries to get past Mt. Blue defender Eva Stevens during a central Maine basketball quarterfinal game Thursday at Gardiner Area High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The Tigers led 38-16 at the half, and then extended it in the second after going on a 6-2 run.

“It’s awesome to get a playoff win under our belt and know we played a good game of basketball,” said Gray. “We have a lot of momentum as we head into next week, I’m ready and so are the girls.”

Coming off an exciting overtime win over Messalonskee, the Cougars knew they had a tall task in coming to Gardiner.

“Our plan was to try and stop (Lizzy) Gruber, overall I think we did a pretty good job of that,” added Mt. Blue senior guard Kiely Reyonds. “It got away from us in the second quarter.”

For Reynolds, the lone senior on the Mt. Blue squad, it was the final time she’d wear the Cougar uniform on a basketball court.

“This season overall was a success; we made the playoffs for the first time in my career, and won an exciting game,” she said. “We didn’t get the job done here, but we have no reason to feel bad about ourselves.”

Gruber scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots for the Tigers. McKenna Johnson chipped in with seven points, and Savannah Brown had six.

Eva Stevens added 11 points for the Cougars and Eryn Parlin chipped in with six.

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