BANGOR — For the Winslow girls basketball team, this season was about growing pains and building for the future. On Saturday morning, it almost became about being one game away from the Eastern Maine final.
The 13th-ranked Black Raiders threw a great defensive plan at No. 5 MDI, and held the Trojans to more than 20 points below their season average. But MDI’s tournament experience won out, and the Trojans held on for a 38-31 victory in an Eastern B quarterfinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
“Some coaches really reached out to us and helped us out,” said Winslow coach Lindsey Welch, who had not seen MDI in person before Saturday. “This coaching staff, I’m very, very lucky to have.”
Winslow packed its defense in a zone, with a focus on 5-foot-9 forward Hannah Shaw, MDI’s leading scorer. The Trojans took seven 3-pointers in the first half, missing all of them, and were 0-for-3 after the break.
“We have some kids who can shoot them, but we really want to get the ball inside,” MDI coach Brent Barker said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well today.”
MDI (17-2) scored the last nine points of the first quarter to lead 14-5 after one. Shaw scored six points in the quarter, but only two the rest of the day.
After that, the Trojans struggled offensively, but kept up their intense defense. MDI’s full-court, trapping press forced 13 Winslow turnovers in the first half, and the Trojans were up 21-13 at the break.
MDI’s best chance to put the game away was in the third quarter, but the Trojans missed several makeable shots. Winslow hung around and made its move in the final minute. With 34 seconds left, Delaney Wood drove the lane and banked in a runner. On Winslow’s next possession, Wood sneaked inside and banked in another shot with two seconds to go to cut MDI’s lead to 25-21 at the end of the third quarter.
“We started being more patient on offense, and we took care of the ball better than we did in the first half,” said Winslow sophomore guard Devin Fitzgibbons, who scored a game-high 13 points. “We didn’t handle their pressure well in the first half.”
Winslow got even closer with 6:33 left in the game, as Fitzgibbons buried a 3-pointer to make it 25-24.
“These girls, they just kick it into 4-wheel drive, and they just go for it,” Welch said. “It’s something within themselves. I have nothing to do with it. It’s all them.”
But shortly after, MDI switched Winslow from 4-wheel drive to neutral. With 5:05 remaining, Barker had the MDI guards hold the ball at midcourt, daring Winslow to come out of its zone. Winslow went to a man-to-man and committed a foul, but MDI had run 1 minute, 40 seconds off the clock.
“I told myself, if we got a little bit of a lead, I wanted to get them out of that,” Barker said. “My big thing was, I wanted to waste time. I wanted the clock to wind down and get to zero as quick as possible.”
MDI missed a foul shot, but sophomore guard Molly Carroll (12 points) got a steal and layup to put the Trojans up by five. Winslow didn’t score again until it was too late.
Still, it was an impressive run for the Raiders, who have three seniors and no juniors on their roster. After defeating Gardiner in a preliminary round game, the young Winslow players showed they weren’t intimidated by playing in Bangor.
“I feel like we accomplished a lot, and we’re playing more as a team now,” Fitzgibbons said. “We have been down in the first half in a lot of games, but we’ve come battling back instead of just giving up.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243