AUGUSTA — Twenty years from now, the program will show the score, and it will look like the easiest of Washburn’s consecutive state titles. The score won’t show how Forest Hills had Washburn scrambling in the second quarter, and it won’t show all the work the Forest Hills players and coaches put in just to get to the state championship game.
That’s the nature of sports, and so is this: After a brilliant undefeated season, Forest Hills simply ran into a better team. Washburn led by 26 points at halftime, and coasted to a 78-40 victory in the Class D girls basketball state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.
Mackenzie Worcester scored 28 points for Washburn (21-2), which won its fourth consecutive Gold Ball. Carmen Bragg added 24 points, and Nicole Olson had 11. Worcester tied a state game record by making 12 free throws, and the Beavers set a new Class D girls record for points in a state final.
Earlier this week, Forest Hills coach Mike LeBlanc had called Washburn, “Forest Hills on steroids,” and he was even more impressed after the game.
“I think I underestimated their speed,” LeBlanc said. “They’re a little bit quicker than they are on video.”
The game started off at hyper-speed, and the teams combined to make their first six field goals. Just 1 minute and 25 seconds into the game, Washburn already led, 11-4.
The Beavers would eventually hit their first six shots and lead 18-5, but a turning point came when Forest Hills senior point guard Dana McNally sat down with her second foul just 2:06 into the game. With Washburn’s athleticism and pressure, the Tigers felt the loss of McNally, and went on to commit 22 turnovers in the first half and 37 for the game.
“I think that made a big difference with her not being on the floor — just her leadership and her calmness,” LeBlanc said. “Then, having to sit that long, when she did come back in, it was a whole different person. But that’s what happens when you get in foul trouble.”
Washburn led 22-9 after one quarter, but the score was a little misleading because the Tigers had missed four layups and had a 9-4 advantage on the boards. Linda Riley scored to start the second quarter for Forest Hills, and Keely Taylor followed by dropping in a three. When Anna Carrier (10 points, nine rebounds) converted a three-point play, the Washburn lead was down to 22-17 and the Forest Hills fans were loud enough to be heard back in Jackman.
After a sloppy few minutes, Washburn’s Carsyn Koch came down the court and yelled to her teammates, “Patience, blue! Patience!” Usually, patience is not a word associated with the way Washburn plays, but it worked for the Beavers.
“We certainly had to do a better job of taking care of the basketball,” Washburn coach Diana Trams said. “I thought that we were able to penetrate to the lane successfully, but their defense was such that it created turnovers, and we didn’t necessarily get to the free throw line a lot. I was just letting them know that we had to be a little bit more selective when we drove to the basket. The seniors, and their presence out there, definitely helped calm everybody down, to get back to focusing on what we needed to do.”
Washburn still had the lead with 3:29 to play in the half when Carrier was called for her second foul. LeBlanc protested the call, and was hit with a technical foul. LeBlanc later said the technical was for swearing, but added he was talking to his bench and not to an official.
Between the technical and the original foul, Worcester ended up making three of the four foul shots. Olson followed with a three for a six-point possession, then another for a 35-19 lead.
“That was a big momentum change, I think,” LeBlanc said. “It kind of threw my team off a little bit, and I take responsibility for that.”
Even though Worcester was hit with her third foul with 1:22 left in the second quarter, the Beavers pushed their lead to 46-20 at halftime.
“We cut it to (five),” LeBlanc said, “and I think from that point on, they turned it up a notch, and we stayed at that same level. They’re a good team. There’s nothing to be ashamed of losing to them.”
Forest Hills is built for comebacks, because the Tigers are so strong from three-point range. But Washburn seemed to rotate around nearly every time the Tigers swung the ball to a three-point shooter. After hitting a total of 22 3-pointers in three Western D tournament games, Forest Hills was 3 for 15 from behind the arc on Saturday. Kori Coro (all 11 of her points in the second half) sprang free to make two threes in the third quarter, But Washburn still led 66-29 entering the fourth.
“We thought a 1-3-1 trapping zone, especially extended, would eliminate a lot of those shots, but we also knew that they had the ability to drive to the basket,” Trams said. “So we can’t just put all the pressure up top, and I thought that they rebounded the ball well. Being able to expand into that trapping zone was effective for us, but I thought that at times, they were able to get the ball inside, and have some easy looks.”
The Tigers graduate four seniors — Carrier, Coro, McNally, and Jocelyn Hoyt. They were part of the first undefeated regular season in school history, and the school’s first Western D girls title since 1997.
“I told them going into this game that this game is an extra game that we get to play and nobody else does,” LeBlanc said. “I’m very proud of their accomplishments all year — how well they did, how hard they worked. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We were able to play in this game when all the other teams would have liked to have been here.”