Southern Aroostook wins 3rd straight Class D girls state championship|

2 months ago

By Pete Warner, Special to The County

AUGUSTA, Maine — When it’s the biggest game of the season and things aren’t going well, it pays to stay positive. And it’s easier to do that when you’ve weathered some struggles along the way.

That’s why despite facing a 14-point, first-half deficit against Valley of Bingham in the Class D girls basketball state championship game on Saturday afternoon, Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook maintained its resolve.

The Warriors manufactured a game-changing 20-2 scoring run, regaining their collective confidence on the way to a 60-42 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.

Coach Cliff Urquhart’s team (21-1) called upon its extensive experience to win its third consecutive state title. Valley, coached by Gordon Harwell, wound up 21-1.

Senior guard Cami Shields spearheaded the Southern Aroostook offense, pouring in a game-high 28 points with 20 of those coming in the second half. She also grabbed six rebounds.

“Unbelievable. This is like a little girl’s dream, growing up watching other girls win gold balls, it’s so surreal,” Shields said. “I’m so happy and excited and proud.”

The Southern Aroostook girls basketball team celebrates their state championship win against Valley on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Janet Vose photo)

Senior Emmalee Landry tallied seven points, grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and provided four assists and five steals for Southern Aroostook, which received nine points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks from Ally Shields, Cami’s sister.

Senior Madison Shields (1 assist, 2 steals), Cami and Ally’s cousin, and junior Libby Anderson (6 rebounds) netted seven points each while Hannah McGary and Olivia Ellingwood also contributed.

“I think we held our poise very well,” Ally Shields said while cradling the gold ball trophy. “We just needed to calm down and take good shots and give them one-and-done.”

Junior Madeline Hill paced Valley with 11 points, while eighth-grader Lianna Hartwell provided 11 points and eight rebounds and sophomore Rylee Clark added eight points and seven rebounds.

Kirsten Bigelow (6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) and Brianna Mills (4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) were other key contributors for the Cavaliers.

A fluke occurrence was cited by both coaches as altering the flow of the game. One minute into the second quarter, with Valley leading 16-8, game official Lance Cowan suffered an Achilles tendon injury and was forced to leave the game.

The contest was delayed by approximately 14 minutes as another official hustled to the locker room to replace Cowan. In the meantime, both teams shot around at their respective ends and waited.

Sisters Ally Shields and Cami Shields of Southern Aroostook show big emotions during the comeback win against Valley in Saturday’s Class D state championship game in Augusta. (Janet Vose photo).

The break was just what the Warriors needed.

“I wish the official all the best, I hope he’s OK, but the delay really helped because it gave us a second halftime,” Urquhart said. “Coach and I were able to talk to the team, get them settled down, just get us back to what got us here.”

Valley responded by scoring six unanswered points after the delay to extend its lead to 22-8, but the Cavaliers were unable to sustain their momentum.

Madison Shields scored five points and Ally Shields had four as Southern Aroostook tightened up its defense and clawed back within 24-21 by halftime.

“That makes it a little tough to keep momentum, especially when you’re a young team against a really good, experienced team,” Gordon Hartwell said of the break.

His squad included only one senior and two juniors with two sophomores, three freshmen and four eighth-graders.

The Warriors eventually extended their lead to 36-30 on a Cami Shields 3-pointer, but a rebound basket by Hill capped a 5-0 spurt as Valley cut the deficit to 36-35 after three quarters.

With its player-to-player defense yielding good results in the form of turnovers (the Cavaliers committed 21), SACS opened the fourth quarter with a 13-5 run that put the game out of reach.

“They have a world and a wealth of experience,” coach Hartwell said. “We’re gaining experience. This is our toe in the water, I guess.”