AUGUSTA — The Cony girls basketball team never found its typical 3-point shooting range in Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal game against No. 4 Mt. Ararat.

But the top-seeded Rams clicked on defense and that’s what made the difference in a hard-fought 46-39 victory. Cony (20-0) advanced to Friday night’s regional final against second-seeded Edward Little.

Mt. Ararat finished 13-7.

This one was close all the way. The Rams gained a little separation in the third quarter to take a 35-27 lead heading into the final eight minutes. But the Eagles came back to within two points when Mt. Ararat’s Caitlin LaFountain converted a four-point play and followed with a free throw.

In the end, turnovers — Cony forced 29 — and some key plays from senior Mia Diplock made the difference.

“We had to focus on what got us here and that’s our defense,” Cony coach Karen Magnusson said.

Diplock finished with a game-high 19 points and hit the biggest basket of the game for the Rams to make it 41-35 with just over two minutes left to play.

Cony had spread the floor and Diplock came off a screen and canned a 16-footer from the right side.

“I knew we needed the big shot and I practice those every day,” Diplock said. “They came in when I was attacking the lane and I decided to do a little pull-up and try to knock it down which happened.”

Diplock and teammate Josie Lee (18 points, nine rebounds) put the game away from the free-throw line, connecting on 5 of 6 in the final 44 seconds.

Just three weeks ago, the Rams handed the Eagles their worst loss of the season, 57-21, on their home floor. There weren’t any big changes from the Eagles on Wednesday, however.

“We just actually played better,” Mt. Ararat coach Kelly LaFountain said. “I felt like that second game that we played them we hit zero shots. We missed a lot of layups today, too, but I think our psyche was a lot better this game.”

Lee got the Rams off to a fast start as she scored eight points in the first quarter and assisted on a layup for Diplock. The Eagles fell behind 9-2 but adjusted and solved Cony’s full-court press for three easy layups from junior Kristy Willey, who scored 10 of her points in the first 12 minutes.

The first quarter ended in a 14-all tie and the teams swapped baskets in the second quarter with the Rams getting their only two 3-pointer so the game from Emily Sanford and Emily Quirion.

“Our game is we shoot really well and we can attack really well,” Magnusson said. “I thought we did really well in making the other baskets count.”

The Rams led 24-22 at the half, but the momentum was on Mt. Ararat’s side. Cony took that away with a strong defensive third period in which they outscored the Eagles 11-5.

“Our press wasn’t as effective in that first half,” Magnusson said. “They got a lot of transition points in that first half so we had to adjust to that.”

Leah Hitchcock scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Eagles while LaFountain had nine rebounds. Cony center Melanie Guzman was in foul trouble in the second half and finished with one point and seven rebounds.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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