MONMOUTH — Third-seeded Monmouth wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels when it learned No. 14 Hall-Dale would be its opponent in the Class C South girls preliminary round. The Bulldogs had taken the Mustangs to the wire in a 37-35 Monmouth victory on Jan. 26 in Farmingdale and were still riding high after a 60-53 upset of Dirigo in the season finale that vaulted them into the playoffs.

Hall-Dale wasn’t particularly giddy about drawing Monmouth, either. And in the second quarter Tuesday night, Tia Day and the Mustangs reminded the Bulldogs why.

Day scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in a second quarter explosion that propelled Monmouth to a 60-34 win in front of a raucous bipartisan crowd from both sides of the RSU 2 rivalry.

Monmouth improved to 17-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will meet No. 11 St. Dominic (10-9), which upset No. 6 Dirigo on Tuesday night. That game is at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Hall-Dale finished 7-12.

Leading 8-6 after the first quarter, the Mustangs went off for 25 points in the second, ending the half on a 17-3 run that virtually put the game out of reach at 33-14.

“When we went down there late in the season we could not shoot at all, so making some shots in this game definitely helped us out,” Day said. “We knew they were going to be tough. They’re always tough when they play against us. We just had to play like we can, shoot like we can and do what we do.”

Day showed what she can do with the ball in her hands throughout the quarter. Her two free throws and Sidney Wilson’s jumper quickly made it 12-8. Hall-Dale called a timeout and got a hoop from Lilly Ly to briefly stem the tide. But two free throws by Wilson pushed the Monmouth cushion into double digits for the first time — and to stay — at 22-11 midway through the quarter. Day then scored eight straight points on a three-point play, a jumper and a three-point shot to quickly balloon the margin to 31-13.

“We were getting good shots (in the first quarter),” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “I knew that once we got settled down a little bit and away from the early excitement that they would start to fall and it would change the complexion of the game. That’s something that never happened the last game.”

“We used a lot of gas in the first quarter,” Hall-Dale coach Jarod Richmond added. “We let Tia escape and get open and she really started to open things up for them and we were kind of chasing it from there. They’re a very, very tough team and they shoot the ball well. You give them any space they’re going to let it fly here.”

Mindful of Hall-Dale’s quickness and the ball-hawking abilities of Ly and twin sisters Dani and Thea Sweet, the Mustangs placed a premium on ball movement, controlling tempo and taking care of the basketball. They even adjusted their defense, pulling back from a fullcourt press to halfcourt man-to-man, to minimize the chaos.

“We start out every game pressing anyway, and we said if it wasn’t getting us anything and we were letting those Sweet girls get up and down the court that we’d go back to just playing halfcourt,” Wing said. “That’s what we did because if you let (the Sweet sisters) get going in the open court, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.”

“We just had to make sure our passes were crisp and not lazy passes that they could get their hands on,” Day added. “If they were to press, we had to make sure to get the ball to the other side so there was no chance of them getting the ball or stealing it.”

Monmouth also did a fine job in the paint against the bigger Bulldog frontcourt. Haley West and Maddie Amero combined for just two points but pulled down eight rebounds apiece and more than held their own in the post.

“For the most part, we played pretty tough defense in there,” Wing said. “For being undersized, I think we rebounded pretty darn well. Maddie Amero stepped up huge tonight.”

Wilson and Abbey Allen added 12 points apiece for the Mustangs. Thea Sweet led the Bulldogs with 14 points, including a season-high four three-pointers. Kayla Johnson chipped in with 10 points for Hall-Dale, which graduates seven seniors but made huge strides in Richmond’s first season as coach.

“We started off 2-6, and this time last week, we’re not even in the tournament,” Richmond said. “We played a great game against Dirigo. I told the girls this one game isn’t going to define our year. We’ve come a long way this year.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33