GARDINER — There were moments in Gardiner’s game against Brewer on Thursday night when the Tigers were a basket or two away from settling the outcome.

It never happened. Despite trailing by 13 points early in the second half, the visiting Witches hung tough. So did the Tigers, who held on for a 51-45 victory thanks to some clutch free throws from junior Mary Toman in the final 40 seconds.

A year ago, the Tigers might have lost this game. Their surprising tournament run to the regional final set the stage for this season and they’ve capitalized. Thursday’s win ran Gardiner’s record to 10-1 in Class A North play and many of those wins have been close.

“I think we’ve built up a lot of team chemistry this season so far,” said Toman, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. “But I also think we have more confidence in each other and in our team.”

The Tigers never trailed and led 37-24 in the third quarter after sophomore Leslie Stevens nailed a 3-pointer from the left side and Nichole Parlin converted a layup. Stevens finished with a game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and kept the Tigers in front in the first half when they were struggling with turnovers.

“She’s a streaky shooter,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “Once she makes one, she’s usually good for two or three more right after that.”


The Witches stayed in touch, finishing the third quarter on a 9-2 run to trail 39-32 at the break.

“We’ve been kind of a Jekyll and Hyde team,” said Brewer coach Chris Harr, who started three sophomores, a freshman and a junior. “When we’re consistent and we play the way we’re supposed to, we’re in games. We go through those youth moments where we get caught standing and watching.”

Gardiner junior Lauren Chadwick (12 points) took the game over at the start of the fourth period with three straight strong drives to the basket. Logan Granholm followed with a layup off a pass from Stevens to make it 47-38, but the Tigers went cold and didn’t score another point for the next four minutes.

“We missed a couple of free throws late,” Gray said. “I thought the effort was great but little mistakes here and there, it’s kind of how every night’s been.”

Four free throws from Ellie Harr and a layup by Courtney Pearson (13 points) drew the Witches to within a hoop, 47-45 with 44 seconds left. The Tigers committed 20 turnovers during the game, 13 of those in the first half, but held onto the ball in the face of Brewer’s press and Toman got to the free throw line.

The 5-foot-10 center made two with 41 seconds left and two more 10 seconds later to seal the outcome.

Gardiner overcame those first-half turnovers, thanks in large part to Stevens, who scored 14 points in the first half and hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter.

“She was on tonight,” Toman said. “She was first off the bench last year, but now she’s a starter. She’s done a lot of good for us.”

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