AUGUSTA — After 48 minutes and four overtimes, the Valentine’s Day marathon was finally over.
The first of a four-game set on Friday produced a memorable contest. No. 3 Oxford Hills held off sixth-ranked Skowhegan, 47-43, in quadruple-overtime in Eastern Class A quarterfinal action.
“Our kids played their guts out,” Skowhegan coach Bob Witts said. “They did everything we wanted them to do. It just came down to a couple bounces one way or the other. I can’t ask any more of our kids.”
Skowhegan’s Taylor Johnson scored a game-high 20 points. Her six 3-pointers were one short of the Eastern A record set by Dawn Anne Higgins in 1991.
“Taylor Johnson — I mean, God, how much can we ask of her?” Witts said. “I’ll say it again: She’s probably the best point guard in the league, which I believe, and I’ve said that from the beginning of the year. She just does so much for us.”
Johnson helped Skowhegan to a 12-5 lead in the first quarter, and things looked very promising for the Indians, as Oxford Hills standout Anna Winslow was on the bench with two fouls. But with Winslow out, the Vikings rallied, and led 21-15 at halftime.
With Morgan Buker (13 points, 13 rebounds) sweeping the boards in the third quarter, Skowhegan regained the lead. But Oxford Hills came back and led 35-32 in the fourth quarter. With 56 seconds left, Buker tipped away an inbounds pass, Johnson drained a three, and the teams went to overtime tied at 35.
Each team had a total of two possessions in the first overtime, and neither scored. If Oxford Hills had the ball and wasn’t losing, the Vikings usually stalled throughout the first three extra periods.
“It’s one of those things in overtime, if they were going to let us take one shot to win it, I think that’s what we were going to do,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “That’s kind of what they wanted (and) we wanted. There wasn’t many shots taken in the overtimes, because both of us are packed into a 2-3 zone. We’re both really big. So really, the shots you’re going to get aren’t the ones you’re going to want in an overtime game.”
“You know what? Actually, I was happy he was in the stall,” Witts said. “It gave our kids a chance to rest. We’re not a great man-to-man team. He’d back cuts us or something to get a layup.”
Buker scored inside with 1:08 left in the second overtime to tie the game at 39 and force a third overtime. With 2:01 left in the third OT, Johnson hit a runner, and Skowhegan still led 41-39 with 16 seconds remaining. The Vikings had the ball go out of bounds with 8 seconds to play, and Mikayla Morin (16 points) drove baseline for a basket with 5.2 seconds to go.
“We had told our kids, âAs soon as they bring it in, let them take a dribble or two, and foul them,'” Witts said. “We tried to foul. She went down the baseline and scored.”
“It really wasn’t how we drew it up,” Pelletier said. “We wanted to get it high post-low post. But Mikayla saw a drive (and) she took it. That’s what big-game players do. They want to take those shots, and she did it.”
Oxford Hills went up 43-41 in the fourth overtime on a layup by Winslow, and pushed that lead to 46-41 on a three-point play by Brooke Murch (12 points, 11 rebounds), with 1:16 left. Skowhegan got a basket by Buker, but could not score again.
“The one thing we told the girls going into the fourth overtime was, âWe’re going to go out and try to win this. There’s no more holding onto the ball,'” Pelletier said. “I felt like if we could put the momentum in our favor, just start pushing the ball, then good things were going to happen — and they did.”
At last, the epic had a winner. And everyone was eager to see what would happen the rest of the tournament.
“Nightmares tonight,” Witts said. “I’m sure I’ll wake up a few times tonight in a cold sweat. Other than that, I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. They really worked hard from the summer to this point, and it showed.”