BANGOR — For one of the few times in a dominant 2021-22 campaign the Oceanside High School girls basketball team stared adversity squarely in the face and had a difficult choice — let an unexpected experience overwhelm or, simply take a breath, regroup and embrace this relatively new scenario en route to making school history.

The talented Mariners opted for the latter as they rallied from a slow start and early deficit to make key shots, plays and free throws over the final three quarters on Friday night, March 4 to complete one of the most memorable and exciting comebacks in recent tournament history.

Oceanside’s Audrey Mackie. Photo by Zack Miller

The Mariners were an offensive juggernaut in their first 19 games, but tough Hermon defense, along with a touch of unfamiliarity with a new postseason venue, combined to limit Oceanside to two first-half field goals in the state Class B championship at the Cross Insurance Center.

Undeterred, however, the Mariners (20-0), who had played their South regional playoff games at the Portland Exposition Building, stayed the course, grabbed the momentum with a 10-0 burst to start the final 16 minutes and then completed an impressive comeback to defeat the Hawks (19-3) 31-28 to win the school’s first basketball crown.

The 2021-22 state Class B girls basketball champions from Oceanside High School in Rockland. The team includes, front from left, Aubrianna Hoose, Anna Kingsbury, Ahlivia Morris and Natalie Hitz; and back, assistant coach Darren Randall, Alydia Hatch, Abby Waterman, Searra Hansen, Emily Sykes, assistant coach Jason Skarka, Audrey Mackie, Bailey Breen, Sophia Daggett, Caitlyn Lamb and head coach Matt Breen. Not pictured are Karen Skarka and manager Dasia Hustus. Photo by Zack Miller

Friday’s victory was the Mariners’ 33rd straight spanning two seasons as they became the second Oceanside athletic team to win a state Class B championship, following the Mariner softball squad in 2013. Oceanside High School, a combination of the former Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School of Thomaston, opened in 2012.

The Mariners, who have two seniors, seven juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen, include Anna Kingsbury, Ahlivia Morris, Audrey Mackie, Abby Waterman, Karen Skarka, Searra Hansen, Emily Sykes, Alydia Hatch, Natalie Hitz, Caitlyn Lamb, Sophia Daggett, Aubrianna Hoose and Bailey Breen. The head coach is Matt Breen and assistant coaches Darren Randall and Jason Skarka. The manager is Dasia Hustus.

From left, Oceanside’s Aubri Hoose, Anna Kingsbury, Ahlivia Morris and Natalie Hitz. Photo by Zack Miller

The Hawks, who have six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman, include Faith Coombs, Allie Cameron, Brooke Gallop, Rachel Wickett, Izzy Byram, Maddie Lebel, Sydney Gallop, Charlotte Caron, Ashley Cote, Veronica Chichetto, Megan Tracy, Elizabeth Wyman and Bella Bowden. The head coach is Matt Cameron and assistant coaches Shawn Good, Liza Muth, Christy Leeman and Ryan Waning.

On Friday, Hermon led 11-5, 17-10 and 24-23 at the quarter breaks. The scenario was shocking and a bit unnerving for the Mariners as they had trailed fewer than a handful of times previously this season and then only for a few seconds in the first quarter of games.

Oceanside players gather with — and kiss — the gold ball after the Mariners rallied to beat Hermon 31-28 on March 4 to win the state Class B high school girls basketball championship at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Photo by Zack Miller

In the state final, Bailey Breen paced the Mariners with 12 points, while Mackie added eight; Sykes, five; Waterman, four; and Morris, two. The Mariners made three triples, two from Mackie and one from Sykes, and netted 10-of-11 free throws (91 percent).

For Hermon, which played its fifth game at CIC this season, Lebel scored 13 points; Wyman, eight; Caron, four; and Coombs, three. The Hawks netted three trifectas, including two from Lebel, and 5-of-9 foul shots (56 percent).

For Oceanside, it was the first win in school history at the Cross Insurance Center. Previously, the girls program had been 0-1 and the boys program 0-4 at the venue, which opened in 2014.

Oceanside coach Matt Breen, left, and his daughter, Bailey, with the gold and game balls. Photo by Zack Miller

For Rockland, the home of Oceanside High School, it was the first state high school basketball championship in 30 years, when then-Rockland District High School defeated York 63-48 in the state Class B boys final in 1991-92. Georges Valley of Thomaston and RDHS combined to form Oceanside a decade ago. The Buccaneers never won a hoop title.

“It’s been a long time,” said Oceanside coach Matt Breen. “I watched the ’92 team win and that was my goal as a player and never achieved it. Obviously it’s been my goal as a coach. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had some great teams that I’ve coached and we either ran up against the wrong opponent or it just wasn’t our day. But this group is just rock solid.”

Oceanside’s Anna Kingsbury. Photo by Zack Miller

The Mariners had little trouble getting into an offensive rhythm this season, but struggled out of the gate on Friday, as did the Hawks.

Oceanside, which dominated most earlier foes with a nearly unstoppable inside-outside game, had only two first-half field goals — a strong take off the glass in the first quarter and a trey in the second — from Mackie.

By comparison, the Hawks were held off the scoreboard for nearly 12 minutes from the 5:30-point of the second quarter until two minutes to go in the third. The Mariners were able to use that time to turn a 12-point deficit into a tie game with two minutes left in the third quarter, but first trailed by seven points heading into halftime.

The Mariners got on the board first with a pair of free throws from Waterman, but the Hawks responded with five straight after a trey by Lebel and offensive putback by Wyman.

Oceanside’s Anna Kingsbury, left, and Abby Waterman. Photo by Zack Miller

Late in the stanza, a Bailey Breen free throw cut Oceanside’s deficit to 7-5, but Hermon, which did a superb job extending possessions with offensive rebounds and tracking down 50/50 balls in the first half, went on a 10-0 run that extended into the second quarter.

That run began after Caron got position on the block and scored, while a quick Hawk steal resulted in a pair of foul shots by Lebel to end the quarter.

Wyman scored an early hoop on the block, Lebel added two free throws and Caron on the baseline found cutting Wyman through the paint as Hermon suddenly led 17-5 with 5:30 to go in the half.

Oceanside’s Bailey Breen. Photo by Zack Miller

It was by far the largest deficit Oceanside had faced this season.

“We’ve never been in a situation like that,” said Bailey Breen. “[Coach Matt Breen] came in and he told us [at halftime] we weren’t playing our best basketball in the first half. They were playing good defense, but he told us, ‘We know we’re capable of hitting those shots [and] we know what we can do. We just have to go out and do it.’ ”

“We all talked even before our coach came in and said, ‘We need to get it together, we can’t get into our heads and we’re only down seven at half,’ ” Sykes said. “We just had to work really hard.”

Oceanside coach Matt Breen, middle, and Mariners on the bench react to a shot from Emily Sykes. Photo by Zack Miller

“Halftime came at the perfect time,” said coach Breen. “We were able to come in, take a breath and relax. In years past being down seven at half I would have been a lot more worked up, but I just have confidence in this group. I know they’re going to make plays. That’s what great players do. And it makes my job a lot easier.”

Mackie, who finished her junior year at 941 career points — 59 shy of the coveted 1,000-mark — hit a trey and Bailey Breen two free throws to end the half, which ignited a 15-0 run that spanned well into the third quarter.

Mackie and Sykes hit back-to-back treys early in the second half, while a hoop by Bailey Breen on the block, followed by a baseline jumper from Waterman, gave the Mariners the three-point edge with 2:12 to go in the third.

Oceanside’s Audrey Mackie, right, and Anna Kingsbury, with Mariner cheerleaders in the background. Photo by Zack Miller

Seconds later, Lebel ended the Hawks’ long scoring drought with a trey to bring the game even 20-20.

Morris gave Oceanside a brief 25-24 lead early in the fourth before Bailey Breen racked up her third and fourth foul in the span of 15 seconds and hit the bench with 6:09 to play.

Bailey Breen said where she had no fouls in the first half, she planned to come out more aggressive on both sides of the ball in the second half

Perhaps too aggressive. It was the first time this season Bailey Breen had more than three fouls in a game.

Oceanside’s Anna Kingsbury. Photo by Zack Miller

“I’m just happy the girls were able to control the tide, stay above water then we were able to get her back in and make some plays,” said coach Breen.

Bailey Breen returned with 3:35 to go and quickly gave Oceanside the lead back at 27-26 after a left-handed scoop layup from the left block.

Hermon retained possession and attempted to run time off the clock while it looked for a high percentage shot, but the Hawks were called for a travel with 1:03 to play.

Oceanside’s Abby Waterman (20) and Anna Kingsbury, back, among others. Photo by Zack Miller

The Hawks, who had only committed three team fouls to that point, were then forced to commit several fouls in the game’s waning seconds to get the Mariners into a one-and-one free throw-shooting situation, which Sykes found herself in with 24.1 seconds to go.

She buried both tries to give Oceanside a three-point edge.

“I was just thinking, ‘We’ve practiced these so much this year and this is the time where it counts,’ ” said Sykes. “These are big shots in a game like this.”

Wyman converted a hoop moments later, but Hermon was again forced to foul — this time Bailey Breen — with five seconds to play.

Bailey Breen followed Sykes’ free throws with two of her own as the Mariner bench prepared to explode onto the floor.

“I shot 100 free throws every day this week with my dad,” Bailey Breen said. “And I just zoned out and really pictured nobody in the gym, just me and my dad and I let them fly.”

Oceanside’s Bailey Breen, front, among others. Photo by Zack Miller

Coach Breen called the game’s waning seconds — with his daughter at the line with a chance to put the state championship on ice — “a dream come true.”

“We’ve spent so much time in the gym together and I must have rebounded thousands of foul shots for her,” he said. “And to be honest she struggled this year from the line, which is unlike her. For her to step up and knock those down after Emily did, it was awesome.”

Oceanside, the No. 2 seed in Class B South, was one of two teams to advance directly to the quarterfinals. From there, the Mariners defeated No. 7 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 60-28 in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Spruce Mountain of Jay 56-34 in the semifinals and No. 4 York 56-49 in the final.

Hermon, the No. 2 seed in Class B North, defeated No. 15 Winslow in the prelims 69-23, No. 10 Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 58-30 in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Mount Desert Island 42-32 in the semifinals and top-ranked Old Town 45-30 in the final.

Technically, the Hawks were the defending regional champions as they won the Class B North crown during the 2019-20 season before they fell to Class B South champion Wells 34-26 in overtime in the state final. A handful of Hawks in Friday’s game also played in that exciting state game.

Coach Matt Breen now is one of three coaches in state history to lead high school boys and girls basketball programs to regional titles, joining Gavin Kane (Rangeley boys and Dirigo of Dixfield girls) and Earl Anderson (Nokomis of Newport boys and girls), according to Don Shields of Frank 106.9 FM, WBQX.

On Saturday March 5, Anderson could join Kane with state titles for boys and girls teams, while Matt Breen now has a girls win and boys loss in the state finals.

There were no high school regional and state basketball tournaments in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. Instead, Oceanside finished 13-0 and won the Knox-Lincoln-Waldo County COVID Cup. The team last year was led by then school athletic director Molly Bishop Harriman as coach Matt Breen was sidelined with health issues.

In 20 games this season, Oceanside outscored opponents 1,261 to 661 (63-33 average), but, as expected, the competition grew tougher as the postseason progressed, with the state final the toughest test for the Mariners.

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