Eagles swoop in to stun Mariners in prelim playoffEllsworth stays close, then rallies late to end Oceanside's season
Rockland — In any sport and game, momentum can be a fickle beast, fun to own when it behaves in one's favor but difficult to harness — or recapture — when it slips away.
Oceanside and Ellsworth experienced both sides of that coin on Tuesday night, Feb. 11 in an Eastern Class B high school girls basketball prelim playoff game.
And it was the visiting Eagles who cashed in.
For much of the competitive 32-minute affair, it appeared the host Mariners had a tenuous hold on the lead, but the visiting Eagles hung around and hung tough, ultimately stunning Oceanside with a late surge that gave the lower-seeded squad a hard-fought 50-47 victory and a trip to the new Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
With the victory, No. 11 Ellsworth (9-10) earned the opportunity to not only play at the new CIC, which replaces the Bangor Auditorium as a tournament site, but also to play Hancock County-rival and neighbor No. 3 Mount Desert Island (16-2) on Friday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. in a quarterfinal playoff game.
The relatively young No. 6 Mariners, who have only two seniors (Brooke Dugan and Trittany Penn), saw another solid season end at 10-9.
Oceanside does not play Ellsworth during the regular season.
For much of the first three quarters of Tuesday's playoff game, the hosts remained ahead of the Eagles, but Ellsworth never let its deficit get out of hand and stayed the course until swooping in for the win in the end.
Oceanside led 12-11, 20-18 and 36-28 at the quarter breaks. However, the Eagles outscored the Mariners 22-11 over the final eight minutes to steal the victory.
For Oceanside, Emily Gould tossed in 16 points and Makenna Brooks 13 to lead the charge. Ashley Gardner also had five points; Brooke Dugan, four; Lily Vachon and Payton Billingsley, three; Brianna Dugan, two; and Kalyn Grover, one. Vachon, Brooks, Gould and Billingsley drilled 3-pointers. The Mariners made 10-of-16 free throws (63 percent).
Gould scored all her points in the first three quarters and Brooks tallied six of her points in the fourth stanza.
Statistically, Gould (4 rebounds), Brooks (2 assists, 2 steals), Gardner (5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocked shots, 3 assists), Brianna Dugan (4 rebounds), Billingsley (2 assists) and Alexis Davis (3 rebounds) led the charge for the Mariners.
For the Eagles, Emily Berry scored 16 points; Madison Card, 12; Morgan Card, eight; Sammy Mason, seven; Hailee Langley, three; and Caitlin Bean and Maddie Dow, both two. Ellsworth made 15-of-28 foul shots (54 percent), including 11-of-18 (61 percent) in the pivotal fourth stanza.
Madison Card had eight points, Berry seven and Morgan Card six in the fourth quarter. Madison Card had the team's lone 3-pointer.
The Mariners, who appeared to assert themselves in the third quarter, held an eight-point advantage entering the fourth but then the momentum shifted. In fact, the hosts' cushion grew to 37-28 before Ellsworth netted five straight points to make it 37-33. Berry scored inside to bring Ellsworth within 38-37 and her foul shot with five minutes left tied the game 38-38.
From there the two teams battled back and forth. Brooks converted a steal to give Oeanside a 40-38 cushion and then Ellsworth grabbed a rare lead — 41-40 — and then moved ahead 42-40 on Langley's foul shot. However, Brooks connected on a floater down the lane at the 2:35-mark to knot the contest 42-42.
From that point, Ellsworth slowly pulled away on foul shots, leading 47-42 before Vachon drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the hosts within 47-45. And Brooks' steal and layup tied the game 47-47 with 52 seconds left.
Perhaps the turning point of the game came with 40.5 seconds left when Morgan Card missed two free throws but was award a third because an Oceanside player moved into the lane too soon on Card's second shot. Card hit the free throw to make it 48-47 and the Eagles never trailed again.
Five points from Gould, four from Brooks and three from Billingsley gave Oceanside a 12-6 first-quarter lead before the Mason's three-point play helped lift the Eagles within 12-11 at the break.
The Eagles took their first lead 32 seconds into the second quarter before Brooks connected on a trey. Berry and Gould traded three-point plays late in the quarter and Brianna Dugan netted two free throws to give the hosts a 20-18 edge after 16 minutes.
The game remained close during the third quarter before Gould's play down the stretch gave the Mariners a seemingly-comfortable 36-28 lead at the break.
But, that comfort was disrupted by the high-flying Eagles in the final eight minutes.
Interestingly, the Ellsworth boys hoop team stopped in to watch the second half of the girls game after the Eagles defeated Medomak Valley 47-44 in an exciting prelim playoff earlier the same night a few miles down Route 1 in Waldoboro.
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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