AUGUSTA — When the Dirigo High School girls basketball team took a one-point lead with five and a half minutes to play, its first lead of the game, Madison shrugged it off and looked at the clock. Plenty of time left. Why panic?
“You’ve got to play the whole quarter,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “Sometimes you get caught up in a close game with the next shot or the next basket is the game winner. You’ve got to play the eight minutes.”
Dirigo’s lead lasted 12 seconds. Emily McKenney’s layup gave the Bulldogs to lead again, this time for good, and Madison held on for a 62-58 win in the Western C semifinals.
No. 5 Madison, now 15-6, will face its rival, No. 3 Carrabec (17-4) in the regional final on Saturday. No. 8 Dirigo ends the season at 13-8.
It was seniors who built Madison’s early lead, and it was seniors who reclaimed it in the fourth. Kirsten Wood scored 10 of her 12 points in the first quarter for the Bulldogs, while Alex Jarvais scored eight of her 12 in the first quarter. In the fourth, Jarvais scored four points, including a layup with 2:19 to go that pushed Madison’s lead to 57-52. McKenney, another senior, scored all four of her points in the fourth.
The Bulldogs said their experience was key to holding off the Cougars’ run. Madison players have reached the tournament three years in a row, and also play at the Augusta Civic Center in the annual Christmas tournament.
“We were a little helter skelter for a little while. But once we realized we needed to calm down, we made them come up with us,” Jarvais said.
Added Wood: “We knew how to come out and keep our composure and play as a team. That helped us have a little bit of an edge.”
The Bulldogs also got contributions from underclassmen. Sophomore Kayla Bess scored 12 of her team-high 15 points in the third quarter, helping Madison build a nine-point lead. Sophomore Emily Oliver scored seven of her nine points in the third.
“I thought the seniors came in and gave us some great minutes at the end of the game. They really showed their patience and their poise,” Veneziano said. “The younger kids did the job early and those guys just sealed it. It was awesome.”
The Bulldogs controlled the boards throughout the game, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds.
“Tonight I thought we went at the boards, and they were very intent going after rebounds. I’m very pleased with that,” Veneziano said.
Madison led 26-22 at the half, and a Bess 3-pointer pushed the lead to 45-36 with 1:20 left in the third quarter. The Cougars went on a 14-4 run, taking their brief lead on a Jessica Conant (13 points) free throw with 5:36 left in the game,
Lauren Henderson and Kelsey Hutchins each scored 15 points for Dirigo. Wood and Erin Whalen each had seven rebounds for Madison.