AUGUSTA — Cristie Vicneire loves playing at the Augusta Civic Center. Sam Bruce loves being under pressure. Both showed why on Thursday afternoon.
Bruce scored a game-high 17 points and made a free throw with 6.5 seconds left to force overtime, and Vicneire had 14 points and drained two clutch 3-pointers as Madison held off Old Orchard Beach, 46-40 in a Western C girls basketball semifinal at the Civic Center.
“I enjoy playing here a lot, actually,” Vicneire said. “We played here for the Capital City (Hoop) Classic tournament, and we all played really well as a team. I just think it’s a nice atmosphere to play in. I honestly like it when people are yelling in the crowd and trying to distract you. It makes me want to play even harder.”
Vicneire and No. 2 Madison will get one more game this season at the Civic Center — at 7:05 p.m., Saturday in the regional final. Thursday’s win over third-seeded Old Orchard was the 300th career victory for Madison coach Al Veneziano.
“Just a bunch of great kids, all throughout the years,” Veneziano said. “I guess you stay in it long enough, you get those wins. There’s some great kids here, and they play hard.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs clamped down on Old Orchard, which scored 63 points in a quarterfinal win over Monmouth. Including the overtime period, OOB made 11 of 67 field-goal attempts, or 16.4 percent. The Seagulls rebounded well offensively, but never got open layups on the second and third shots.
“We got good help position,” Veneziano said. “We didn’t allow them the penetration. We always had somebody there when they penetrated. And once that person penetrated, we didn’t allow them to kick that back, because we felt that was something that we needed to stop.”
But aside from Bruce, Madison wasn’t shooting much better in the first half, which ended with the Bulldogs on top 17-16. Bruce had 11 of those 17 points.
Madison led 28-22 early in the fourth quarter, but that lead withered under OOB’s full-court pressure. A steal and layup by Olivia Dubois tied the score at 28 with five minutes left, and the Seagulls led 33-31 with under two minutes to go after a 3-pointer by Christina Colman and a driving layup by Abby Dubois.
The Bulldogs regained the lead when Vicneire, who had missed her last six shots, stuck a 3 from the right wing with 1:06 to go.
“She had a great game in the first game,” said Veneziano of Vicneire, who scored 17 points in the quarterfinals against Mt. Abram. “She’s a shooter. She likes to score, and she really looks for those. She’s starting to come into her own here.”
Abby Dubois made another driving layup to put the Seagulls back on top at 35-34 with 16 seconds left. Then, with 6.5 seconds to play, Bruce was fouled driving to the basket on the left baseline.
“I like foul shots anyway,” Bruce said. “It’s my favorite kind of shot to take. I like being under pressure like that, so it worked out great for me.”
Bruce missed the first free throw, but made the second, and the game went into overtime.
“I was not concerned with her making the second one,” Veneziano said. “She’s a gamer.”
Fittingly, Vicneire gave Madison the lead for good in the overtime on a 3-pointer with 3:17 left, and Bruce sank two foul shots with 28 seconds remaining to put Madison ahead by four and all but clinch the win. Emily McKenney also had a huge basket in the extra period for the Bulldogs.
“It was definitely a tough game,” Vicneire said. “We didn’t play our best game at all. It was a really hard for win for us. We kept it together at the end, and I think we outplayed them in the overtime.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243