GARDINER — The Gardiner girls basketball team overcame a shaky start and made a game of it Tuesday night against Lincoln Academy.
But the script followed the first meeting between the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B opponents with the visiting Eagles dominating the paint behind senior center Jen Genthner. Lincoln never shook the Tigers (6-4) but managed to seal the game in the final minute from the foul line to secure a 61-55 win.
Genthner, one of two seniors on the team, finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds while occupying several Gardiner defenders.
“She’s a tough matchup,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “If you play behind her she’s going to turn and shoot and if you front her she’s going to get her on rebound if it doesn’t go in.”
Lincoln freshman point guard Brie Wajer finished with 16 points and four assists while junior Taylor Oliver added 10 points. The Tigers drew a big game from senior Ally Day who finished with a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Day scored eight of those points in a back-and-forth third period that saw five ties and five lead changes.
“Ally stepped up in that third quarter, especially,” Gray said. “They did a good job adjusting to her in the fourth quarter.”
The Tigers took their last lead of the night early in the fourth quarter when freshman Lauren Chadwick stole the ball and fed Camden Cone for a layup to make it 51-50. Chadwick finished with 14 points, including a pair of 3s, along with three assists.
“Lauren’s playing really well,” Gray said.”She can create her own shot, she makes a lot happen. She plays composed more than you think a freshman would.”
Wajer showed composure for a freshman as well as she twice directed the Eagles in their delay game in the second half and finished both efforts with free throws.
“She’s been doing that since middle school,” Genthner said.
The Tigers fell behind 11-2 at the outset, committing eight turnovers in the first period in the face of Lincoln’s full-court pressure. Day worked her way inside and went 6 for 6 from the line in the first quarter to get Gardiner back into it, 17-13.
“It was an absolute battle from the moment the ball went up in the beginning until the end,” Lincoln coach Kevin Feltis said. “They were really focused on Jen tonight. She did a nice job moving without the basketball.”
The Tigers forced a half dozen turnovers in the second quarter and drew to with two (26-24) at the half when Day came up with a steal and found Morgan Carver for a layup in the closing seconds.
The Eagles outscored the Tigers 22-21 in an entertaining third quarter in which Oliver scored seven points while Day answered with eight and Carver and Abby Dunn each hit big 3-pointers to put Gardiner temporarily in front. The Eagles have lost three starters to knee injuries since the start of the season, but have come together since.
“I think we’ve improved immensely,” Genthner said. “We work together and we see each other on the floor better. We’ve improved by a lot.”