Vikings punch ticket to Western Class D quarterfinalsBalanced scoring leads islanders past NYA Panthers in prelim playoff
Vinalhaven — High school basketball preliminary playoff games between eighth- and ninth-seeds typically are well-fought affairs featuring evenly-matched teams, and the Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11 Western Class D girls contest between No. 8 Vinalhaven and No. 9 North Yarmouth Academy was no exception.
Both teams traded hoops throughout the contest and, while the Panthers (6-13) led at the end of the first three quarters, the host Vikings (12-7) outscored the hosts 18-10 in the final eight minutes and surged to a 51-47 victory on the island.
The Vikings will move onto the regional quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center, where they will face No. 1 Forest Hills of Jackman (18-0) on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 11:30 a.m. The undefeated Tigers bested the Vikings in two regular-season games — 67-39 and 62-30. The Tigers are coached Mike LeBlanc, a former Rockland Recreation Department director.
“They played fantastic,” said Vinalhaven coach Alan Lazaro of his student-athletes. “They never gave up. They worked right until the end. We had a little bit of sloppy play in the middle [of the game], but that’s going to happen.”
Both teams had plenty of turnovers in the game, but the Vikings executed down the stretch to eliminate the Panthers from the postseason.
NYA led 12-8 after the first quarter, clung to a 22-21 lead at halftime and extended its advantage to 37-33 after three quarters.
Ashley Hamilton led the balanced Viking scoring attack with 14 points, while Bailey Wadleigh added 13; Ellie Reidy, 12; Taylor Littlefield, nine; Ashley Davis-Oakes, two; and Skylar Sanborn, one. Hamilton continues to close in on 1,000 points for her career. She has 909 at this point.
Charlotte Esancy scored 21 points to lead the Panthers, while Chloe Leighman added 12; Sara Thompson, six; and Emma Warren and Hannah Carr, four.
The Vikings were 7-of-14 (50 percent) from the foul line, including 4-of-9 (44 percent) in the fourth quarter. The Panthers were 2-of-3 (67 percent) from the charity stripe.
The Panthers took a 15-8 lead in the first half when Esancy ended the first quarter with a 3-pointer and started the second quarter the same way, but the Vikings hung tough throughout the second stanza and went on an 11-0 run, thanks to two hoops from Reidy, a jumper from Littlefield, a hoop off a steal by Hamilton to give the islanders the lead and a trey by Wadleigh with three minutes left to give the hosts a 19-15 lead.
The Panthers got into foul trouble in the second half as they got into the bonus with 4:44 remaining, which gave the Vikings plenty of chances at the foul line.
“I thought they played awesome,’” said NYA coach Liz Smith of the Panthers. “I thought they played both ends of the court really well and we pushed the ball. We just got in some foul trouble and that was kind of our undoing.”
The Vikings quickly tied the game in the fourth quarter when Reidy netted a baseline jumper, along with Hamilton, who had her initial shot blocked, but collected the loose ball and converted a field goal with 5:40 left in regulation to tie the game 37-37.
Esancy converted a pair of free throws with 5:22 left, but the Vikings eventually took the lead for good on a free throw from Sanborn and two more from Hamilton, which put the islanders in front 40-39.
“The girls listened and did what I told them,” said Lazaro. “They went to the middle, we got some whistles blown and we made some foul shots when we needed to. And they made some good stops when we needed to. I’m really proud of them.”
Wadleigh and Reidy gave the Vikings a five-point lead on back-to-back hoops, but Esancy made it interesting down the stretch for the Panthers as she canned a pair of 3-pointers, including a bank shot with 1:18 remaining.
However, NYA would get no closer as the islanders got a jumper from Hamilton, a free throw from Littlefield and a hoop from Davis-Oakes to clinch the game with 12 seconds to play.
The Vikings will face the undefeated Tigers in the quarterfinals. And while the odds are against them, Lazaro said his team will “do our best and see what happens.
“I don’t know if we’re going to have to play perfect, but we’re going to have to play pretty near perfect,” he said. “They’re a great team. They’re 18-0, they’re fast, they’re strong and they’ve got a great coach."