In a stunning turnaround, the Medomak Valley girls basketball squad clawed past host Camden Hills Friday night 51-47 after the Panthers had trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter.

The game was important on many levels. It was a battle between two of the top Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B squads and two local rivals who are vying for top positions for the upcoming Eastern Class B tournament in Bangor.

With Friday’s outcome, Medomak Valley and Camden Hills now hold identical 12-4 records. However, the Windjammers are fifth (80.4938 Heal Points) and the Panthers sixth (74.5679 points) in the region. Mount Desert Island is first (120.9877 points) in the 19-team region.

Camden Hills came into Friday’s game as one of the hottest teams in the region. The Windjammers carried an eight-game win streak into Friday’s contest.

Friday’s game was another thriller for the Panthers and Windjammers. On Dec. 11, host Medomak Valley beat Camden Hills 44-43 in Waldoboro.

On Friday, it appeared the Windjammers would gain a bit of pay back for that earlier loss; however, Medomak Valley players refused to go quietly into the night.

“We have this little saying: ‘Clear eyes, full heart, cant lose’ and I just kept telling everybody that as we kept going in and off the court,” said Panther Lacy Massengale. “Everybody just kept playing with heart and we wanted it more than they did.”

Massengale led the Panthers with 15 points, including key foul shots down the stretch, and wanted to inspire her team. “I was thinking, ‘I really don’t want to lose’ and I was like ‘Well, if I step it up everybody else is going to step it,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”

Camden Hills led through the first three quarters — 9-7, 20-17 and 35-29.

Also scoring for Medomak Valley were Lindsay Ranquist with 10 points; Ericka Christensen, nine; Danielle Dyer and Alanna Vose, eight; and Nicole Weaver, one. Christensen (8 rebounds), Ranquist (6 rebounds, 4 steals) and Vose (4 assists) led statistically.

Jordan Knowlton again keyed the ‘Jammers with 12 points, followed by Maddy Smeaton with eight; Gab Duke and Maci Heal, both seven; Jackay Richards, five; Kara Legage and Kylie Carlsen, both three; and Hayley Buckheit, two. Knowlton (8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals), Smeaton (5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) and Allie Holmes (3 rebounds) led statistically.

“We should have won the game by 17 or 18 [points],” said Camden Hills coach Jay Carlsen. “They wanted it more than we do. They were more mentally tough than we [were].”

The Panthers made 17-of-23 free throws (74 percent) and the Windjammers 4-of-6 (67 percent). Medomak Valley netted 12-of-14 foul shots (86 percent) in the final eight minutes. Massengale iced all seven free throws she took in the fourth stanza. Vose and Ranquist both netted two and Christensen one down the stretch.

With about minutes to go, Duke scored to give Camden Hills a 42-32 lead. However, the Panthers would not go down without a fight — and fight they did.

Coach Carlsen said turnovers and fouls were part of the reason the game got away from his team, but he added that the visitors also wanted to win a little more than the hosts. “They were able to score with a clock stopped and they got themselves back in the game,” he said. “I mean, they [dug] down deeper than we did for this game.”

Massengale scored four more points to bring the Panthers within 42-36. Ranquist converted a free throw followed by Christensen’s conventional 3-point play to continue the Panthers game of catch up. With 3:43 left, Vose netted two free throws to tie the game 42-42.

The teams were tied 44-44 with 2:25 remaining, but Heal drilled a 3-pointer with 1:37 left and the Windjammers again led 47-44.

However, that would be the final time the hosts scored. Medomak Valley finished the game on a 7-0 run to ice the win.

Hooper credits the win to an event that happened the day before Friday’s game. According to the veteran coach, the team had been having issues between players that disrupted their ability to play their best.

So, he came up with a solution: namely putting them in the locker room and having them work it out.

“I told them, ‘You’re not coming out until all the issues are addressed, until all the issues come out, until everybody has a say about what they are upset about’ and they were in there an hour and tears were shed, but when they came out you could see just a great clarity in their eyes,” the coach said.

“Well, we just kind of figured things out,” said Massengale of the players-only meeting. “We talked about what our problems were, what we were willing to do to fix it and we all have the goal of going to Bangor [to the regional tournament], so that’s what helped us today. So that’s what helped us; we all wanted to go to Bangor.”

Friday’s win might just be the catalyst to give the Panthers a solid spot in the upcoming tourney.

Hooper said he saw how the team had changed after they talked. “You could see that ‘Yes coach, we addressed all of our issues, we all wanna get to the same place and we are going to work as hard as we can to get there.’ That’s what pulled us through,” he said.

With 26.8 seconds to go the Panthers took the lead thanks to two free throws by Massengale and the Medomak Valley fans began to celebrate the conclusion of the comeback. Massengale and Ranquist provided the final points for the Panthers.

In the end, coach Hooper said that the way his team bonded and resolved their problems will be with them a long time.

“That’s a lesson that’s gonna carry with them the rest of their lives,” he said. “I’m just telling you right now those kids will: A, remember this the rest of their lives and they will, B, draw strength from this the rest of their lives and you can’t learn that in a classroom. So that is why we do this.”

Click for more photos from the Medomak Valley at Camden Hills varsity game.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.