AUGUSTA — Dominique Lewis was not going to let the opportunity pass by her again.

In a tie game with less than 30 seconds remaining, the 5-foot-4 guard had the ball in her hands a few feet behind the 3-point arc after passing on a potential go-ahead shot moments earlier. This time, she did not hesitate.

“Time was ticking and we needed points,” Lewis said, “so I just decided to let it go.”

It was a championship-winning decision.

Lewis’ 3-pointer with 19.4 seconds remaining hit nothing but net to help lift the second-seeded Lawrence girls basketball team to a 46-42 victory over No. 1 Bangor in the Eastern A title game Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center. The junior captain knocked down five triples in the contest on her way to a game-high 16 points.

“I was so proud of her,” Lawrence senior captain Paige Belanger said. “She’s a very, very good player and very good shooter. That whole last few minutes was a blur.”

Belanger was given the Bob Whytock Award as the tournament’s most outstanding player after the game largely for her play at the defensive end. Though she averaged just 6.67 points between three games, she often drew the opposition’s best player.

She had the primary responsibility of guarding Bangor star Mary Butler — a 6-foot-1 guard — Saturday and helped hold her to just 10 points on 3-of-18 shooting. Belanger also had seven rebounds, five points and a pair of assists.

“She’s a very, very good player and I was up to the challenge,” Belanger said. “I wanted to guard her.

“She’s very good shooting outside, she’s a good post up (and) she’s very good driving. She’s all-around a very respectable player.”

Butler was not the only star player to be limited Saturday though, as Lawrence standout Nia Irving drew the bulk of the Rams attention. Irving finished with 10 points — she had been averaging 30 in the tournament — and seven rebounds while constantly facing double teams in the post, yet she found other ways to be effective.

Irving was ever-present as a facilitator of the Bulldogs’ offense out of the high post and finished without a turnover. All three of her assists came on inside-out passes to Lewis for 3-pointers at the top of the key.

“She realized she was going to have a hard time getting the ball up inside and she made some nice passes,” Lawrence coach John Donato said. “If Nia’s shut down somebody else is going to pick up the load. This game right here it was our outside shooting, which hasn’t been very good lately but it was good today.”

Behind the play of Lewis, Irving, Belanger and a couple key 3-pointers from Morgan Boudreau off the bench, Lawrence looked to be in position to close out the Rams without any drama with a 41-35 lead with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining.

That would not be the case though, as a 3-pointer from Katie Butler with 1:26 to go cut the deficit in half and set in motion a wild finish.

Free throw troubles for the Bulldogs kept the Rams alive, as Lawrence went 1-for-4 at the line in a 25-second span following the Butler triple. During that stretch Bangor’s Cordelia Stewart split a pair of foul shots to keep the Rams within 42-39 heading into the final minute.

“We’ve been a great foul shooting team,” Donato said. “(Saturday) was our worst foul shooting exhibition.”

Sarah Bragg — who led the Rams with 14 points — took advantage and dealt the Bulldogs a potentially crushing blow with 34.2 seconds remaining when she knocked down a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to tie it, but Lawrence did not let the shot affect them.

As they had done all game, the Bulldogs patiently worked the ball around until Lewis got the ball at the top of the key and fired.

In its first two games in the tournament, Bangor made key plays in the final minute to secure victories over Hampden and Edward Little, respectively, but a third such instance was not in the cards.

Emily Gilmore’s 3-pointer with 8 seconds to play hit the front end of the rim and bounced out, and Irving secured the rebound. After being fouled, she made 1-of-2 free throws to lock up the Bulldogs’ win.

Throughout the game Lawrence showed great poise and patience. It only turned the ball over eight times and a lot of that, according to Belanger, comes from the Bulldogs’ previous experience.

“We’ve been in this situation before. Coming in, getting upset last year we’ve definitely learned the hard way that we need to keep our heads,” she said. “That’s definitely taught us that we’re going to be OK and we just need to work through it.”

Lawrence’s perseverance came through not just in the fact that it won, but how it won. The Bulldogs are known for their strong inside presence with Belanger, Irving and Abby Weigang (eight points, seven rebounds), but Bangor is one of the few teams with the size to match up with them.

“The way we were going to win this game was by our outside shooting and it was,” Donato said. “They were packing it in on Nia. When you’re the player of the year three years in a row she’s not going to get many shots so our outside shooting won the game for us.”

Lewis and Boudreau combined to go 7-for-13 on 3-pointers, and for Lewis, the performance was particularly satisfying. She had an off shooting night in the Bulldogs’ lone loss earlier this season against Bangor.

“I didn’t shoot well and I knew it,” Lewis said. “We watched film after film, I knew my mistakes and I needed to capitalize on them.

“… We wanted this. We had been working for this and we had been practicing for hours. We knew what we had to do when we came in here.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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