AUGUSTA — It seemed to take both Gardiner and Mt. Blue girls basketball teams most of the third quarter to recover from the shock of a 20-20 tie at halftime of the Class A North quarterfinals.

Sixth-seeded Mt. Blue, which was delighted with what the scoreboard showed in spite of its poor shooting and even poorer rebounding in the first half, could never get its offense going in the second half. No. 3 Gardiner, which felt like it missed an opportunity to create some distance in the first half, knew it couldn’t afford to let the Cougars off the hook again.

Gardiner opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run and pulled away from Mt. Blue to earn a 43-35 victory Friday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

Lauren Chadwick led the Tigers with 13 points while Leslie Stevens added 11. Caitlin Kane led the Cougars with 12 points.

No. 3 Gardiner will face No. 2 Messalonskee in a regional semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Gardiner (15-4) led 24-23 after a morbid third quarter that saw the two teams combine for seven points on 3-for-15 shooting. A layup by Mary Toman (five points, 16 rebounds) off a Leah Weymouth steal gave the Tigers the lead and a little bit of momentum heading into the final period.

Stevens made sure it carried over with a jumper and a 3-pointer within the first 1:10 to make it 29-23. Two free throws from Mackenzie Harris interrupted the run only briefly, as Logan Granholm scored on a runner and a putback and Chadwick banked home a shot to make it 35-25 with 5:18 to go.

Kane hit a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Cougars (9-10) within six with a minute left before a layup by Stevens sealed it.

“Down the stretch, we just took care of the ball,” said Gray, whose team had 11 turnovers for the game. “That was just their composure. We’ve always been a pretty good go-fast team, but earlier in the year we weren’t a very good slow-it-down team. I feel like we’ve improved on when we need to slow down, we can slow down.”

Mt. Blue shot 9-for-39 (23 percent) for the game. Gardiner also struggled to find the range until the fourth quarter, when it made 8 of 15 shots.

The Tigers were able to overcome their shooting woes early with relentless work on the offensive boards. Led by Weymouth (six offensive rebounds), they gave themselves second chances, and Weymouth, Stevens and Chadwick knocked down 3-pointers off those chances for a quick 9-2 lead.

“Last game, we had a tough time rebounding. We knew today we had to rebound if we were going to win,” Weymouth said.

With Weymouth doing an excellent job defending Kane, the Cougars’ leading scorer, Mt. Blue managed just five points in the first quarter.

“I was just trying to keep her from going to the basket, trying to front her and stuff,” Weymouth said.

“I thought she did just a great job all around,” Gray said of Weymouth. “Now that it’s over, it was kind of fun to see just how hard both of them were working against each other, and you could see the frustration on both of their faces.”

The Cougars chipped away at the deficit in the second quarter, and Kane’s first basket, a 3-pointer with two minutes left before intermission, tied the game at 18-18.

“We were disappointed to be tied at the half, but at the same time we’ve been in worse spots,” Gray said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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