MONMOUTH — Monmouth Academy girls basketball coach Scott Wing prepared extensively for all the opponents his Mustangs could face in the Class C girls basketball tournament. Well, save for one. The numbers didn’t seem to add up for a preliminary matchup with Searsport, so the Vikings escaped Wing’s focus.
“We hadn’t seen them,” he said. “They were the only team out of the 23, whatever teams in Class C South that we hadn’t scouted, because we didn’t think that we’d be playing them.”
Go figure. The seeds played out, and that Searsport team became Monmouth’s first obstacle. And the Mustangs made it look like they had been waiting for the Vikings all along.
Using relentless defensive pressure that unraveled the Searsport offense, third-seeded Monmouth advanced to the C South quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center with a 56-25 victory over the 14th-seeded Vikings. Monmouth is now 16-3 and will face No. 6 Waynflete in Augusta. Searsport’s season ended at 8-11.
“We weren’t really sure. We knew who they were and some of their players and stuff, but we weren’t sure individually how they were,” Wing said. “We started out a little bit tentative to see how each kid played, and then we realized we could get out and pressure them a little bit more.”
The Vikings had no answer once the Mustangs found their rhythm. Monmouth led 5-4 in the first quarter before scoring 24 of the next 25 points, opening up a 29-5 lead and forcing 12 turnovers in that span. The Mustangs, who led 31-7 at halftime and 43-10 after three quarters, did it by picking off passes, swarming ball handlers and showing active hands in the paint, and forced 27 Searsport turnovers in the contest.
“Their pressure is just … it’s a lot like what we see in the (North), and it really bothered us tonight,” said Searsport coach Mel Grant, who got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Mikaela Alley. “We just weren’t ready to play. Our best ball handler is also our biggest girl, so we’ve got to kind of have her underneath. After we made her bring the ball up every time we had no problem with it. We also didn’t have any inside presence after that whatsoever.”
Wing said the pressure has played a big part in Monmouth’s rise to the top few group of Class C South.
“We’ve pressed all 19 games so far,” he said. “There’s some teams that we do different things against … but we’ve started out every game pressing all season long.”
Monmouth was led by Abby Ferland and Destiny Clough with 10 points, with Clough scoring eight in the fourth quarter. Tia Day had eight points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter that helped spur the Mustangs to the big lead, while Maddie Amero had six rebounds and Ferland and Clough added five each.
Emily Grandahl led the defensive effort with three steals for the Mustangs, who got a chance to shake off any tournament nerves before heading to the brighter lights of the Civic Center.
“We start four juniors and a sophomore, and it was interesting because I thought the sophomore girl was a little bit nervous at the beginning,” Wing said. “I said to the girls ‘It’s nice to get straight to the tournament, but it’s also nice sometimes to have this game, as long as you win the thing, to break the ice a little bit.’ ”
“It does break the nerves a little bit, because it is a playoff game and it means something. If you don’t win it, you’re going home.”
Drew Bonifant — 621-5638