GARDINER — A young Skowhegan team nearly played the role of Grinch at John Bragoli Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

In a game of huge momentum swings, the visiting Indians dug themselves out of big holes twice before falling to Gardiner amidst a barrage of 3-pointers and clutch free throws. The final: Gardiner 66, Skowhegan 63.

Gardiner is 4-1 in Class North play while Skowhegan, winners of three straight coming into the game, falls to 3-3.

The Tigers led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter but got rattled in the face of an effective zone press thrown up by the Indians. To compound matters for the Tigers, junior Mary Toman picked up her third foul in the quarter. Gardiner didn’t score until Aimee Adams hit a free throw with 24 seconds left in the half. By that time, Skowhegan had run off 23 straight points to take a 33-22 lead at the half.

“We were lucky to only be down 11 at the half,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “Skowhegan played as good a second quarter as anyone could play and we played as bad a second quarter as anyone could play.”

The game turned on a dime in the third period as the Tigers made an effort to get the ball to Toman coming off the high post and sophomore Leslie Stevens heated up from behind the arc. Toman scored eight of her 15 points in the period, six from the foul line, while Stevens nailed three 3-pointers and a layup en route to a game and career-high 20 points.

“I knew after the second quarter we were all kind of scrambled,” Stevens said. “We had to come together and get composure and once I started focusing on putting the ball in the hoop it came together.”

Stevens scored three 3s in a two minute span midway through the quarter to draw the Tigers within one, 39-38. Mikayla Bourassa added a trey from the left corner to put Gardiner up by two and the teams traded hoops until Adams put in a rebound at the buzzer to make it 49-45 Tigers.

“I was taller than most of their post players,” Toman said. “Getting me the ball is hard for them to defend and most often they’re going to foul me. When that’s not open, we have a lot of guards that can step up big. Like Leslie stepped up huge tonight. We’re an all-around strong team.”

The Indians started three freshmen, getting a team-high 17 points from Annie Cooke, 16 from Sydney Reed and seven from Alyssa Everett. Senior Tracey Swanson scored 11 points but sat for several minutes after picking up her fourth foul in the third quarter.

“We missed too many layups, that’s going to happen that’s what I tell them,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “We’re a work in progress.”

The Tigers went up 56-46 on a pair of Toman free throws but the Indians didn’t fold. They twice battled back to within a point behind Cooke and Swanson. Cooke made three of four free throws — both teams shot 23 of 31 from the line — to draw Skowhegan within a point 62-61 with 38 seconds left. Lauren Chadwick, who had an off night by her standards, made two from the line for Gardiner and Swanson responded with pair for the Indians with 16.9 left. Logan Granholm sealed it for the Tigers with two free throws with 10.9 seconds remaining. LeBlanc called timeout to set up a 3-point attempt but it was blocked at the buzzer.

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