AUGUSTA — The Madison Area Memorial High School girls basketball team knows a thing or two about pulling off upsets at the Augusta Civic Center.

Thanks to some strong defense and hot shooting from Kayla Bess early on, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs made sure they were not the victims of one on their way to a 43-27 victory over No. 8 Searsport in a Class C South semifinal Thursday at the Civic Center. The Vikings, who advanced to Thursday’s game after upsetting No. 1 Richmond 33-32 in the quarterfinals, finished the season at 13-8.

“Whatever momentum they had you have to take it away from them and I thought we did that. We did a good job of that early in the game,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “You can’t let that keep rolling because if it does, that can become a problem for you.”

The Bulldogs (14-7) will now face No. 2 Boothbay (19-1), which defeated No. 3 Monmouth 36-34 earlier in the day, in the regional finals on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center. The last time the two teams met in Augusta, Madison upset the second-seeded Seahawks 43-41 in the Class C West quarterfinals on a last-second shot from Emily Oliver as the No. 10 seed.

“We’ve improved a lot over the season. We have a real chance of beating them again,” Bess said. “They’re a really good team but I think we have enough in it to beat them this time.”

It was Bess that sparked the Bulldogs on Thursday, as she canned a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter to give her team a 13-5 advantage after the first and 24-13 lead at halftime.

“Last game I wasn’t shooting very well and I kind of got shut down on defense,” Bess said. “This game our focus was to come out strong and try to keep up the intensity the entire game.

“For our confidence we really need to get out strong and score a lot in the first quarter, first half and then as the pressure increases in the second half pound it to them once more.”

After a strong opening half, the Bulldogs sealed the win in the third quarter on the defensive end of the court.

Searsport had just a single point in the third until Melinda Ogden drained a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining to cut the Bulldogs’ advantage to 33-17. A 7-0 run from the Vikings allowed them to get as close as 37-27 with 2:49 remaining in the contest, but Madison’s lead never dipped into single digits.

Throughout the game, the Bulldogs effectively mixed their defenses in an effort to slow up Ogden, Searsport’s top player. When in man-to-man or box-and-one looks Oliver drew the primary coverage along with Marah Hall, and the duo limited Ogden to just 14 points for the contest.

“We kept Emily with her and let her guard her. Then we tried Marah Hall and just tried to keep people going at her, make sure that she knows that we know that she can shoot the ball,” Veneziano said. “She can play. She’s a very good shooter. She does a lot of good things so I think that we did a good job on her.”

“Emily Oliver leading us on defense. That was definitely the reason we won that game,” added Bess.

Bess ultimately finished with 12 points to pace Madison, while Madeline Wood had nine and Sydney LeBlanc and Erin Whalen each chipped in with seven.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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