By Joseph Cyr, Special to The County
HOULTON, Maine – A battle between cross-town rivals turned into an exciting, defensive matchup Wednesday evening as the Hodgdon girls basketball team journeyed to Houlton.
And when the dust had settled, Hodgdon emerged victorious, 31-28.
Hodgdon’s Anna Oliver and Houlton’s Amelia Callnan were the offensive standouts on the evening, as both athletes poured in 14 points to lead their respective teams. Meghan Peters chipped in 12 points for Hodgdon, while Gracie Little and Aleyah Matheson both had two and Tori Gilman added one.
Other scorers for Houlton were Tori Ervin with eight points; Dani Espencheid, four; and Kaitlyn Kenney and Camille Callnan, each had one.
The visiting Hawks have enjoyed tremendous success on the hardwood this year, while the Houlton Shires have struggled a bit.
Hodgdon now stands at 11-1 on the season and is the top-ranked squad in Class C North. The Hawks’ only blemish on the season was a 65-53 loss to Southern Aroostook.
“We started out pretty good in the first quarter, but then we kind of eased up,” Hodgdon coach Matt Day said. “I think nerves may have been an issue too.”
If the Hawks were nervous, they didn’t show it to start the game as the squad soared to a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes of action and closed out the first quarter with an 11-4 edge over the Shires.
Houlton finally sprang to life in the second quarter, going on a 7-2 run to cut Hodgdon’s lead to a single possession (13-11) with 2:20 to play in the half. Hodgdon managed to regain its composure and took a 17-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“I have always said, for us, the first team to 35 (points) wins,” Houlton coach Ken Ervin said. “We hang our hats on being as aggressive and defensive as we can. We now need to turn that defense into offense.”
The Shires came out with renewed vigor to start the second half, as Amelia Callnan drained a 3-pointer followed by a pair of low post buckets by Espencheid and Tori Ervin to give Houlton a 19-17 lead.
“We had the height advantage, so it was a matter of working the ball around and not settling for the outside shot,” coach Ervin said. “Turnovers were the one area we struggled with and were detrimental to the outcome of the game.”
Hodgdon regained its composure and reclaimed the lead by sinking five of six foul shots to close out the third quarter on top 22-19. The Shires cut Hodgdon’s lead to just one (29-28) with 40 seconds remaining as Callnan sank her fourth shot on the night from behind the 3-point arc, but Hodgdon was able to escape with the win.
“Houlton had a lot of second-chance points in the second half,” Day said. “We didn’t do a good enough job boxing out, but a win is a win, no matter what the final score is. It was a good test for our patience and composure.”
With the loss, Houlton falls to 5-8 on the season and is currently ranked 10th in Class B North. The Shires’ playoff hopes, although slim, are still alive as the top 11 squads in this region make the postseason.
The two squads meet again Jan. 31 at Hodgdon.