Fryeburg Academy’s second-half magic ran out a few points shy of an upset Wednesday morning.
After losing most of its 11-point lead, unbeaten and second-seeded Spruce Mountain made the plays and free throws it had to make down the stretch to pull out a 55-51 victory in a Western Class B girls’ basketball quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.
“We started off the season 2-5, and then we went 8-2 including a prelim win,” Fryeburg senior center Skye Dole said. “So I’m very proud of my team. We’re a second-half team. We come back in every game. We outscore pretty much every team in the second half, so we knew we could come back.”
Behind its defensive pressure and a pair of buckets each from juniors Emily Keene and Kailee Newcomb, Spruce Mountain (19-0) appeared in control, leading 38-27 as the third quarter wound down.
Fryeburg (12-8) kept coming back, with Dole scoring 11 of her team-high 14 points in the final 10 minutes.
The lead was down to 39-33 after three quarters and could have been even lower but for three missed shots from inside 6 feet in the final seconds.
Nicole Hamblin and Samantha Richards scored baskets to push the lead to 10, but Spruce Mountain helped keep Fryeburg in the game with five turnovers and 1-of-8 shooting at the free-throw line early in the fourth quarter.
“We were doing just about everything possible to lose the game,” said Keene.
Keene scored 18 points but she was among those struggling, twice forcing unnecessary offensive attempts and missing three of her first four free throws.
That’s when legendary coach Gavin Kane, he of the 500-plus overall wins, reminded Keene that she made 49 of 50 free throws in a contest last summer.
“I told her to pretend she was at Husson College in a free-throw contest,” Kane said.
Keene made six straight, and Spruce Mountain was 9 of 10 from the line in the final 71 seconds to keep Fryeburg at bay, despite the Raiders making five of six shots down the stretch, including a 3-pointer from McKenna Gerchman that cut the lead to 50-47 with 43 seconds left.
Fryeburg was without two senior captains because of sickness or injury: Sydney Charles (mononucleosis) and Sarah Welch (concussion). Sophomore forward Alexis L’Heureux-Carland scored 11 points and had three second-half assists, while freshman Mackenzie Buzzell (seven points) and Nicole Bennett (four points) and sophomore Gerchman played well in expanded roles.
“I’m really happy with the way the younger kids responded,” Fryeburg Coach Sean Watson said.
The Phoenix will face No. 3 Wells at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Last year, Wells entered the tournament with a losing record but upset an unbeaten Spruce Mountain team in the quarterfinals.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: