PORTLAND — Avery Bessey’s long-range shooting helped third-seeded Spruce Mountain pull off a one-point victory over sixth-seeded Yarmouth, 47-46, in the Class B South quarterfinals Saturday at the Portland Expo.

Bessey hit five 3-pointers for the Phoenix, who advance to face second-seeded Medomak Valley (15-4) in the semifinals Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Expo.

“Once I made the first one, I just said, ‘I’ve got to keep going,’” Bessey said. “I had to have the confidence and had to say to myself, it has to go, and that’s how it happened.”

Bessey led the Spruce Mountain (17-2) with 15 points.

“She’s a great shooter, she’s a high-level shooter, and she’s probably the best shooter I’ve ever had,” Phoenix coach Zach Keene said. “It’s just a matter of kind of getting into a rhythm of some sort, and today she did.”

Bessey’s first 3-pointer came after a block by teammate Aubrey Kachnovich during the low-scoring first quarter, which ended with the teams tied 6-6. Freshman Maddie Grimaldi also made a 3 for Spruce Mountain.


Senior Lauren Kearney scored three points in the first for the Clippers (10-9). She tied Bessey as the game’s top scorer with 15 points, despite being slowed by an injury late in the first half.

Yarmouth coach Tom Panozzo said Kearney showed her toughness and set an example for her teammates by playing through her pain.

“She always comes back, and that’s what I think is the lesson learned from all this,” Panozzo said. “Even for the younger players, because they’re going to have less experience, but to just keep fighting and keep playing your hardest.”

The scoring picked up in the second quarter. Spruce Mountain senior Jaydn Pingree helped kick things off, taking the ball down the court and passing it off to Kachnovich for a trey, one of three by the Phoenix in the period.

The Clippers answered those points and stuck with Spruce throughout the period, with Cate King and Neena Panozzo battled at the rim for Yarmouth to keep the Phoenix’s lead to a minimum.

“Neena plays intense, and when she knows she needs to, she brings it on,” Tom Panozzo said. “Sometimes you do get caught that way, but she’s one heck of a player. She definitely knows when to turn it on.”


Panozzo has also coached the six-person senior class since they were young, and credits them as his inspiration for becoming a high school coach. He said the fight and effort the seniors give every day is inspiring, and to be a part of it has been amazing.

“Now, I just want to continue and make Yarmouth’s mantra just play tough defense, run the court, let’s be athletes and do our best,” Tom Panozzo said.

Bessey and Elizabeth Grondin also made 3s for the Phoenix, who led 21-17 at halftime, but the back-and-forth style of play was only in its beginning stages.

“We knew we had to stay calm. I mean, we went over the game plan and practiced for this situation, because we knew it was going to happen,” Bessey said. “Practice is really what helped us in that situation.”

The teams swapped the lead nearly every minute of the third quarter. Both coaches said they expected a fight, and for the game to be as close as it was.

Bessey made two 3s in the period, and Aine Powers did likewise for Yarmouth. At the end of the third, the score sat at 34-31, with Spruce barely holding on to the lead.


“I know it sounds cliche, but we see (Avery) do that a lot,” Keene said. “It’s kind of expected out of her, but to do it on this stage and the moments that she hit them was pretty cool to see.”

Neena Panozzo kicked off the fourth quarter with a fast-break basket, and immediately followed it up with a blocked shot. After Bessey sank her final 3-pointer of the game, Panozzo chipped in her last two of eight overall points.

Lauren Keaney also scored five points in the fourth, and Spruce built a seven-point lead with about three minutes remaining, thanks in part to back-to-back travels by Yarmouth.

Jaydn Pingree, Spruce Mountain’s all-time leading scorer, found herself at the foul line several times in the second half, and added three points in the fourth quarter on four attempts. Eight of her 10 points in the game were scored at the free-throw line.

Keene credited the seniors for Spruce keeping its composure and holding the lead, despite what he said was “sloppy” play at the end of the game. He also said prior tournament experience helped the team stay level-headed through the end of the game.


“I know I’m comfortable on the sidelines, in those moments, knowing that they’ve had those experiences,” Keene said. “(Yarmouth’s) good, they’re really good. They’re athletic and they’re long — and I just want one of their athletic, 5-10 players.”

Looking to the next round of playoffs, Keene said the Phoenix need to work on rebounding, cleaning up their game and ball movement, which he said was “stagnant at times.”

King was the Clippers’ second-highest scorer with 12 points, while Powers had eight.

Kachnovich finished with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, for the Phoenix, while Jazmine Pingree contributed seven points.

“I’m most proud of our teamwork and how we all came through for each other, especially even in the rough moments when they got chippy,” Bessey said. “We’re all just there for each other, and that’s what got us the win.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.