Cobras beat Madison for 1st regional title

AUGUSTA — Some programs don’t have a history of success. For them, a team that made the playoffs is a team they want to be like.

Carrabec was like that. But the Cobras are the poor sisters no more.

On Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center, Carrabec won its first ever regional title in girls basketball. Their fans chanted “Green and White! Cobra Tight!” as the Cobras celebrated a 54-50 victory over Madison in the Western C final.

“I have been saying this group of girls has the potential to do this,” Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said, “if they would come together, and accept their roles, play as a team, and be happy for their teammates no matter what. And they’ve done it. That’s why we’re here. It all came togetehr, and they all support each other — completely.”

Carrabec, the No. 3 seed, is now 18-4 and will face Eastern Maine champion Calais in the Class C state final at 7:05 p.m., Saturday, in Augusta.

“It’s been our dream since I can remember,” Willette said. “It’s amazing that we’re here.”

“I don’t even know what to say,” Carrabec junior center Emma Pluntke said. “I can’t believe that we won.”

The largest lead for either side in the entire fourth quarter was four points. Madison’s Alex Jarvais (eight of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter) knocked down a three with 2:33 left to put the Bulldogs up 50-49, but Hannah Atwood answered for Carrabec and Mickayla Willette made a free throw for a 52-50 Carrabec lead with 1:24 to play.

Atwood missed the front end of a one-and-one with 32 seconds remaining, but Madison turned the ball over. With 16.4 seconds left, Willette was fouled. She missed both, but Carrabec’s Macy Welch (10 points, seven rebounds) swooped in and grabbed the rebound. Welch missed a follow, and Madison secured the rebound, but only until Willette stole the ball and scored the clinching basket.

“Normally, Mickayla makes those big shots,” Rugh said. “But when she got that steal, that was just beautiful. She’s a player. She just reacted to it. That is why she’s played basketball for nine months a year, since she was in the fifth grade.”

“Oh my goodness, I could not believe I missed all those free throws,” Willette said. “I was kind of freaking out. But when I got that steal, and I was able to put it back for a layup, I was a little freaked out, but we still had to keep playing.”

Atwood, a sophomore, was named tournament MVP after scoring 16 points in the regional final. She scored two points in Carrabec’s first game in Augusta, a 49-37 victory over Waynflete, then hit for 33 points in the next two games. With time winding down in the third quarter, Atwood — who was born right-handed — threw in a one-hand shot left-handed with her foot on the three-point line to make Carrabec’s lead 41-38 entering the fourth quarter.

Carrabec shot out to a 21-10 lead early in the second quarter. Willette had seven of her 12 points in the first quarter, and Pluntke grabbed eight rebounds in the first half.

“I knew that I had to come out and play tonight,” Willette said. “We all did. I think that we did that, and that was a big factor. We were all on it.”

Things changed as Welch, Pluntke and Kate Stevens all had to sit down or play differently with foul trouble. Madison players like Cristie Vicneire, Erin Whalen and Kirsten Wood drove to the hoop for baskets or fouls, and the score was 24-24 at halftime.

“I thought our girls played our hearts out,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “We got down early, and we came back from that. I thought in the first and second half, we could have got a couple points up on them, and it would have made a big difference.”

“Coach brought us in (at halftime) and told us that we worked so hard for it, and we couldn’t let it go,” Atwood said.

The Cobras went to a zone in the second half, and though Pluntke got her fourth foul and had to sit just 2:52 into the third quarter, Rugh thought the zone ultimately protected his inside players, and Madison did not drive as often or as effectively as in the final minutes of the first half.

“I thought we could have taken it to the basket a little bit more,” Veneziano said. “But you get into offensive sets, and they felt it wasn’t there.”

And when Willette made that steal and basket, it was Carrabec winning the Western C title. The Cobras have one girls basketball banner in their home gymnasium, from when they lost the regional final in 1997.

“We get (the first) banner since before I was born,” Pluntke said. “I can’t wait to play Saturday.”

Madison finishes at 15-7, but it’s worth noting the Bulldogs played most of the regular season and all of the tournament without junior Bronte Elias, perhaps the team’s best all-around player. Elias was sidelined early in the season with a knee injury.

“A player like Bronte goes away, and you’re talking a double-digit scorer, and most times, a double-digit rebounder, and just her court sense makes up a lot,” Veneziano said. “You take her away, it does hurt, but these kids dug in, and they did a great job.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243[email protected]Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo