AUGUSTA — Boothbay’s Faith Blethen is a 6-foot-1 freshman with the skill to play outside or inside. More often than not this season, Seahawks girls basketball coach Tanner Grover asked her to put the paint skills on the back burner and the perimeter skills on the front.

Against Monmouth in Thursday’s Class C South semifinal, Grover had Blethen set up inside, and she showed she hasn’t been neglecting that part of her repertoire with a game-high 15 points to lead No. 2 Boothbay to a 36-34 victory over No. 3 Monmouth Academy at the Augusta Civic Center.

Boothbay (19-1) advanced to the regional final Saturday, where it will face No. 4 Madison at 7 p.m.

“This tournament we’ve definitely started to use our post more,” Blethen said. “We really haven’t used our height advantage all the way this season, but now our height advantage getting even more (pronounced), so we’ve started to move it in more. The last time we played them, we didn’t really take advantage of our inside stuff.”

Monmouth, which handed Boothbay its only loss, 42-41, earlier in the season, finished 18-3.

Haley West led the Mustangs with 12 points and six rebounds, while Tia Day added nine points.

Trailing 10-7 after the first quarter, Boothbay started to exploit its height advantage with Blethen and 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Page Brown (seven points). The Seahawks still trailed by three at the half, but they matched their patient offense with stifling defense in the second half, outscoring the Mustangs 12-3 in the third quarter for a lead they would never relinquish.

“There was a lot of push in the locker room. We knew that we were down, but we also knew that we had more to give,” Blethen said. “Our last sequences in the second quarter really showed us we’re getting in our rhythm, we’re in our comfort zone and now it’s time to just play our game.”

“Boothbay made some good adjustments by posting Blethen, which (Grover) really hasn’t done that much this year,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “Brown’s tough down there, and when you’ve got them both to deal with down there, it’s very, very difficult.”

Blethen and Kate Friant scored the first two baskets of the second half inside to put Boothbay in front to stay.

“It’s tough when you’re going against that size,” Wing said. “The kids had no margin for error at all. Everything they did defensively had to be just right. That obviously changed our game plan. Once we got behind a little bit, we had to come out and play them a little bit more because we were sagging back trying to help out on the post play.”

Thanks to a mix of 1-2-2 zone and man-to-man defenses by Boothbay, Monmouth didn’t score a point until a Sidney Wilson free throw made it 22-20 with 2:27 left in the third. Sydney Meader answered that with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.

“The zone was tough. They’re so long they can recover quickly,” Wing said. “When we moved the ball well against them we were all right, but we just didn’t get that many clean looks.”

“The first time we played them up at their place, we went straight man. They run that motion offense so well, they seemed to take care of a lot of open looks,” Grover said. “We were just trying to do anything we could to dictate the rhythm of the game.”

Day scored the Mustangs’ only field goal of the third to pull them back within three but the Seahawks burned up close to a minute for the last shot of the quarter and got more than it could have hoped out of it when Meader passed over the top of Monmouth’s defense to Brown for a three-point play to make it 28-22 heading into the fourth.

“That’s something that’s very deliberate on our part,” Grover said. “We try to work the last possession every quarter. We feel like it keeps us in control. It doesn’t always work out that well, but it worked out that way that time.”

Blethen scored inside again to extend the margin to eight early in the fourth and later scored on a putback for a 33-23 lead midway through the quarter. Back-to-back three-point plays by Day and Abbey Allen (eight points, seven rebounds) and a pair of free throws by Allen pulled the Mustangs within two with 1:07 left.

Boothbay senior Hannah Morley made three of four free throws in the final 52 seconds, yet the Mustangs were still within one possession when Allen sank one of two from the charity stripe with 13 seconds remaining. Inexplicably, Monmouth didn’t try to foul after Boothbay put the ball in play, and the clock ran out.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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