BANGOR — In order for the Monmouth Academy girls basketball team to take home a highly coveted Gold Ball, they needed to find the golden touch of their own.

Mission accomplished.

Shrugging off a sluggish start, the Mustangs started finding their stroke in the second quarter behind the 3-point shooting of junior captain Tia Day and rolled off to a 46-37 win over Dexter in the Class C state championship game Saturday night at the Cross Insurance Center. Junior forward Abbey Allen scored a team-high 16 points and Monmouth won the first state basketball title — boys or girls — in school history.

“It feels amazing,” Day said, succinctly summing up the mood as the Mustangs celebrated with the Gold Ball in hand and nets draped over their necks.

For head coach Scott Wing, who grew up in Monmouth and has worked all of his adult life at the school, it was an emotional victory.

“Awesome, awesome,” Wing said. “Being a kid who grew up in Monmouth and went to Monmouth Academy and then, except for my first year out of high school, worked their all of my adult life — I’ve been in the Monmouth schools for 40 years. It means a lot.”

Monmouth (19-3) not only needed to find its shooting touch after falling into a 9-4 hole early — thanks to just 20 percent shooting (2 of 10 from the floor) in the first quarter — but it also needed to neutralize the distinct size advantage inside Dexter held. To accomplish that, the Mustangs didn’t try and find the right body to defend inside. Instead, Wing opted to let freshman guard Audrey Fletcher come in off the bench and initiate full-court pressure.

That turned out to be the right move, with Dexter turning the ball over on five of its final six possessions in the first half, just as Monmouth was stretching into a 12-4 run to take a 16-13 lead into halftime.

“We definitely weren’t out-sizing them, that wasn’t going to happen,” Wing said, referencing Dexter’s 6-foot Megan Peach and 5-10 Rebecca Barton. “Early in the game… we weren’t putting as much defensive pressure as we needed to. A couple of minutes into the second quarter, we started pressing the ball a little bit more, and kids knew that they weren’t going to go by them. That was the big difference in the game.

“That was kind of what changed the game right there.”

Day had just one field goal in the second half, a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to take a 22-19 lead, but as an outside threat to be contended with, she opened up plenty of other Monmouth options in the half-court set. Allen scored five points in the quarter.

That success with the press and on the perimeter simply offset Peach, who scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the third quarter. It also put Tiger Kayli Cunningham (seven points) in foul trouble.

Cunningham fouled out early in the fourth, just a few minutes after freshman Julia Johnson splashed a three from the top of the key to open up a 35-27 lead, Monmouth’s largest to that point, early in the quarter. Meanwhile, Dexter — trying desperately to stay in contention as the pace quickened — turned the ball over three times to start the final period.

In all, the Tigers committed 15 turnovers on the night.

“We knew we could push it up the court because they wanted to play more of a slow game,” Day said. “We wanted to push it up the court, because that’s the kind of basketball we play. “We really wanted to put ball pressure on their guards and make them work, make them work to get it to Peach. We wanted to make her work for every point she got.”

Down the stretch, those points never came. And while Dexter increasingly turned to Peach, Monmouth spread its scoring out among six different players. Day, as she’d done in the regional championship last week against Old Orchard Beach, made four free throws in the final 1:43 to seal the victory.

“They’ve been solid all year (off the bench),” Wing said. “We just needed to hit a couple shots to get us rolling. Julia hit that three, and it turned the tide. Once we got our feet under us and the nerves were gone, we started to shoot a little bit better and the kids started to step up.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC