WATERVILLE — With leading rebounder Alexa Frame out with a high ankle sprain, the Waterville girls basketball team had a noticeably different look to its 2-3 zone defense. In the middle, and playing in the paint, was 5-foot-7 point guard Colleen O’Donnell.
“It’s different,” O’Donnell said. “I knew I had to be tough underneath and get a lot of rebounds. So I really tried to box people out and grab the ball.”
Despite missing nearly half of the fourth quarter will foul trouble, O’Donnell finished with 17 points, 17 rebounds and six steals. Her last steal became a three-point play with 14.3 seconds left, lifting the Purple Panthers to a 38-37 victory over Maine Central Institute on Tuesday night.
“She rebounds the ball very well,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “She’s active and she’s athletic. She gets off the floor to attack the ball and then she’s dangerous from there, because she’s able to rip it out and start transition.”
O’Donnell had 15 rebounds in the first half alone. In the final minute of the second quarter, O’Donnell got three consecutive offensive rebounds before drawing a foul, leading MCI coach Jason Allen to comment on the sideline, “She’s a one-man wrecking crew right now.” O’Donnell followed that with a steal and a basket, and when Jenna Gagnon (13 points) threw in a 28-footer at the buzzer, Waterville led 18-14 at the half.
The Panthers (1-3) pushed that lead to 23-15 before MCI went on a 10-0 run. With 6:38 left in the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 25 when O’Donnell went to the bench with her fourth foul. The Huskies missed their first 18 field goal attempts of the fourth quarter and Waterville outscored MCI 8-0 with O’Donnell on the bench. Michaela DeVogt hit two huge 3-pointers in that stretch.
One again, MCI (0-4) came back. Ashley Alton (12 points) knocked down a 3-pointer and Brianna Losee (12 points) buried another 3 to tie the game at 35 with 1:05 to play. After two Waterville turnovers, MCI missed two shots but had the ball under its own basket with 19.6 seconds left. O’Donnell stole the inbounds pass, went the length of the floor and hit a layup while drawing the foul. Her foul shot gave Waterville a 38-35 lead.
“No one went to the ball, so I just took it and knew I had to go all the way,” O’Donnell said. “So I did.”
MCI called timeout to set up a game-tying shot. Losee tossed up a hurried 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer that was off line, but Gagnon was called for a foul. Losee made two of three foul shots with 0.2 seconds left for the final score.
“We wanted to get either Brianna or Ashley a look,” Allen said. “They did a really good job of taking away Ashley at the top. When Brianna first released it, I thought it had a chance to go in. We got we what we wanted; they did a pretty good job of defending it, too.”