Huge comeback in final quarter lifts Panthers girls by No. 1 Warriors

8 years ago

MARS HILL, Maine — Trailing by 11 points with 6 1/2 minutes to play Friday, the Central Aroostook Panthers amped up their defensive intensity against the youthful Southern Aroostook Warriors.

The result was nine forced turnovers the rest of the way that led to a 19-6 scoring spurt, capped by two clutch hoops in the final minute by senior Karli Levesque. Due mainly to those factors, the Panthers won their biggest game of the season, 56-54, over the top-ranked Warriors from Dyer Brook.

“[Southern Aroostook] is a great, young team, but they got into some foul trouble, and we were able to execute down the stretch,” said first-year Panther coach Cody Tompkins. “I told the girls tonight that the biggest key was going to be confidence, and I think they demonstrated that very well tonight.

“We executed our plays, made our free throws and we boxed out well,” he added.

The victory avenged a 68-51 loss in the mutual opener on Dec. 4 and secured 10-3 Central Aroostook’s No. 4 ranking in Class D North. The Warriors (9-5), a team made up entirely of four freshmen and four eighth-graders, remain in first place, but the division tightened as SA lost for the third time in its last four contests.

“The more experienced team won that game,” said Warrior coach Cliff Urquhart. “That’s not making excuses, but it’s just that being on the road and being so young, we haven’t been hit with a lot of situations like that.

“Give [Central Aroostook] some credit. They never gave up, fought back and did some good things by creating some turnovers and we didn’t respond,” he added.

Despite a tough 6-for-24 shooting night from the field, Levesque put together a huge performance and came through with some late-game heroics. She had 13 of her team-high 19 rebounds in the second half, 11 of which came in the third quarter, to go along with her 17 points. She also had a pair of steals and went 5-for-6 from the foul line.

The Panthers were in the midst of their huge run, but still trailed by four after Warrior freshman Kassidy Mathers hit two free throws with 1:37 to play. Those were the last points scored by Southern Aroostook. CA freshman Ashlee Harris drained two foul shots 10 seconds later and after a Warrior turnover, Levesque made a strong move toward the basket and hit the layup to tie the score at 54-54 with 50 seconds remaining.

Each team turned the ball over and SA had possession and the chance for the last shot, but a pass was deflected and landed in the hands of Levesque at the foul line. She drove all the way to the other end and converted a contested layup with seven seconds left. A desperation running 3-point attempt by eighth-grader Makaelyn Porter at the buzzer fell short.

“We never gave up,” Levesque said. “Our guards did a great job trapping and it led to that basket.”

Thanks mainly to Levesque’s dominance inside, Central Aroostook held a 43-25 rebounding advantage in the game, which led to 20 additional field goal attempts.

Junior Kelsey Dominique, who missed the first half of the season due to injury, had her finest effort of the season with all nine of her points coming in the second half.

“She had her coming out game,” Tompkins said. “She is starting to build her minutes and stepped up big for us.”

Dominique and senior guard Molly Anthony (five steals) also played outstanding defense on the top of the zone, especially in the final eight minutes.

“Molly is our most underrated player because she can change a game without even scoring,” Tompkins added.

Ashlee Harris added 15 points for the winners and Caitlyn Harris was solid with eight points, seven rebounds and three steals.

For SA, Mathers scored a game-high 22 points, including a 12-for-18 effort from the foul line, and added five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Sydney Brewer, another eighth-grader, contributed 11 points and five rebounds and freshman Kylie Vining scored 14 points and had six rebounds and three steals. However, both players were saddled with foul trouble throughout due to the dominant interior play by the Panthers.

“It was a huge win and our confidence is sky high right now,” Levesque added.