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High school girls basketball

Sharp-clawed Tigers cage hard-working Panthers in Class A North playoff

Teams split two regular-season contests, including late, postseason-boosting Medomak Valley home win
By Ken Waltz and Zack Miller | Feb 14, 2020
Photo by: Zack Miller Medomak Valley's Kayla Donlin passes the ball against Gardiner on Feb. 14 in high school girls basketball in Augusta. The Panthers lost to the Tigers 58-30 in a Class A North quarterfinal playoff contest.

Augusta — After an up-and-down regular season that seemingly included one step forward then one back, the Medomak Valley girls basketball put it all together down the stretch of the campaign with strong performances — specifically one — to thrust itself into the Class A North playoffs.

One of the most important victories for the Medomak Valley later in the second half of the high school court campaign came against talented and highly-ranked Gardiner in Waldoboro. In fact, that home win over the Tigers essentially gave the Panthers the Heal Points to lift them into serious postseason contention.

And, as hoop fate would have it, the Panthers had a third high school court meeting of the winter with Gardiner in the quarterfinals of the regional playoffs and this time the Tigers could not be caged, as they clawed to the early momentum and carried that strong all-around performance to a comfortable 58-30 victory.

Watch video and see more photos below.

On Friday night, Feb. 14, No. 2 Gardiner (16-3) bested No. 7 Medomak Valley (6-13) in the Class A quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Panthers and Tigers split two regular-season games, as Medomak Valley won 53-51 on Feb. 4 in Waldoboro and lost 49-45 on Dec. 18 in Gardiner.

With Friday's playoff victory, Gardiner moves on to the semifinals where it will play No. 6 Skowhegan (10-9), which upset No. 3 Messalonskee of Oakland (13-6) 57-40 in the quarterfinals, on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. back at the ACC.

Gardiner beat Skowhegan 54-40 in the teams lone regular-season meeting.

The Tigers, who have one of the state's tallest high school coaches in 6-foot 8-inch Mike Gray, led 13-2, 29-12 and 41-21 at the quarter breaks against the Panthers on Friday.

Gardiner was led by Lizzy Gruber (12 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks), while Bailey Poore (15 points, 6 rebounds), Maggie Bell (8 points, 3 rebounds), Kassidy Collins (6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals), Maddie Farnham (6 points, 4 rebounds), Michaela Gardner (6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals), Jaycie Stevens (4 points, 5 rebounds) and McKenna Johnson (1 point, 2 rebounds) had strong offensive showings.

The Tigers finished 17-of-55 (30.9 percent) from the field, and netted 24-of-35 free throws (69 percent), but did not make a 3-pointer. Poore finished 7-of-11 from the foul line.

For the Panthers, Sadie Cohen (9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Alyssa Creamer (9 points, 3 rebounds), Abby Lash (7 points, 5 rebounds, block), Kayla Donlin (3 points, 7 rebounds), and Julia Kunesh (2 points) filled the stat sheet. Medomak Valley was 9-of-50 (18 percent) in field-goal attempts, and made 9-of-22 foul shots (41 percent). The Panthers got trifectas from Lash, Cohen and Creamer.

"Not really the way we wanted to go out," said Panther coach Ryan McNelly. "The first half I think it was some nerves, and then we couldn't find a rhythm, and that's tough.

"We have a team that when someone's down usually someone else can bring them up, and that didn't happen in the first half. I think Gardiner changed our flow, and that was tough to get back from. At halftime we talked about that and how we needed to change that.

"There wasn't a lot of 'Xs and Os' I could do, but it was coming together as a team, finding each other and trusting each other, and they did that to start [the second half], but they ran out of gas."

Right from the first whistle the Panthers found themselves down on the scoreboard, as the Tigers scored six points in two minutes, before Medomak Valley called a timeout.

The Panthers broke the scoreboard goose egg when Cohen got a shot to fall for her team's first, and only, field goal of the opening quarter.

Gardiner followed its first run with another offensive burst, after the Panthers first basket, helped by strong rebounding by 6-foot 3-inch Gruber, and hustle plays made by the Tigers to keep balls inbounds and out of Medomak Valley's hands.

Gardiner started with more buckets to open the second stanza, but Cohen broke the Tiger scoring run with her, and team's, second bucket of the game with 5:12 to play before halftime.

Despite being down double-digits to start the second half, the Panthers fought back with a 7-2 run.

Creamer opened the third quarter with a trey from the top of the key, and after a pair of Gardiner free throws, Lash hit a long jumper followed by a Creamer layup, foul, and chance for a three-point play, which was unsuccessful.

The run allowed Medomak Valley to claw its way back within 12 points, but that was as close as the Panthers got, as the Tigers continued their offensive push.

The Panthers, who were 4-4 at one point this winter before losing seven of eight and then notching the key late-season win over Gardiner, have a relatively young team with two seniors (Cohen and Donlin), two juniors, five sophomores and a freshman.

"[Donlin and Cohen] have meant huge amounts to the team," said McNelly. "They've been the heart and soul of the team and driving the team forward. Both were very consistent, and looking at their stats the other day they average around 10 points a game and eight rebounds per game. They were both consistent every night."

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.

Medomak Valley and Gardiner girls basketball
Medomak Valley and Gardiner on Feb. 14 in high school girls basketball in Augusta. (Video by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash, left, and Gardiner's Kassidy Collins. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, left, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Kayla Donlin, left, and Gardiner's Margaret Bell. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Kayla Donlin. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer, front, and Gardiner's Bailey Poore. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer, left, and Kayla Donlin, middle, as well as Gardiner's Margaret Bell, front, and Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash, left, and Gardiner's Kassidy Collins. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, middle, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber, left, and Bailey Poore. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Zaniah Puchalski, left, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Zaniah Puchalski, left, and Sadie Cohen, right, as well as Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, front, and Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Zaniah Puchalski, right, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash, middle, and Alyssa Creamer, left, as well as Gardiner's Bailey Poore, right. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer, front, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens, left, among others. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, right, and Zaniah Puchalski, front, as well as Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Zaniah Puchalski, middle, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens, back, and Madison Farnham. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Autumn Ripley, left, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Autumn Ripley, left, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Julia Kunesh. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, left, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Julia Kunesh, middle, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber, back, and Bailey Poore. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Julia Kunesh. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Julia Kunesh, right. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Autumn Ripley, left, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Autumn Ripley, left, and Gardiner's Jaycie Stevens. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Alyssa Creamer. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Addison McCormick. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Addison McCormick, right, and Gardiner's Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash, front, and Gardiner's Bailey Poore, left, and Lizzy Gruber. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Abby Lash. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
Medomak Valley's Sadie Cohen, front. (Photo by: Zack Miller)
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