AUGUSTA — If you are looking for the most intense player on the Madison Area Memorial High School girls basketball team, senior Emily Oliver is not one of the first names who usually comes up.

“I’m kind of laid back compared to everybody else,” Oliver said.

A returning starter, Oliver enjoys being in the background, according to coach Al Veneziano, as a player who does all the little things — defense, rebounding, setting screens — every good team needs to win. As opponents have learned, though, that relaxed demeanor should not be mistaken for a lack of drive.

“She’s a competitor. Basketball is something she really enjoys playing and she works really hard at it,” Veneziano said. “Even though she is soft-spoken, she does stuff on the floor that really brings it out of her.”

It is something the fourth-seeded Bulldogs’ opponent in the Class C South championship, No. 2 Boothbay, knows all too well. In last season’s regional tournament Madison knocked off then-No. 2 Boothbay 43-41 as the 10th seed on a shot from Oliver on the left block as time expired.

“Honestly, I only remember the last shot,” Madison senior Kayla Bess said. “I had the ball outside the 3-point line and I saw that Emily was open. It was like a Hail Mary, last chance opportunity and she made it.”

As her teammates swarmed her to celebrate the win, Oliver barely reacted.

“I was in shock,” she recalled Thursday following Madison’s 43-27 regional semifinal win over Searsport at the Augusta Civic Center.

As Oliver and the Bulldogs were in the process of dispatching the Vikings, their opponent in Saturday’s 7 p.m. regional final, Boothbay, was watching in the stands. Just like the Bulldogs, Boothbay has not forgotten the last time the two teams met at the Civic Center.

“We have plenty of motivation, for sure,” Boothbay coach Tanner Grover said. “That game taught us that we have to play right until the final buzzer.”

Faith Blethen, a 6-foot-1 freshman, has developed into a force for the Seahawks. Though she was not on the team for last season’s tournament loss to Madison, she does remember exactly where she was for it.

“I was there right behind the bench that game. My dad (Brian Blethen), he’s the assistant coach, so I’ve definitely heard a lot about that game and we’ve been through a lot of scenarios of that happening again,” Faith Blethen said. “We had that scenario happen again at Monmouth this season. We’ve done a lot of preparing for it so we’re hoping we’re not in that situation anymore.”

If such a scenario should arise Saturday, expect Madison to be ready for it. Over the past four seasons the Bulldogs have gone 10-3 in the postseason and made three regional finals.

That success in high-pressure situations is not limited to just the hardwood for players like Bess and fellow senior Erin Whalen — among others — either. Many members of Madison’s girls basketball team also play soccer in the fall and softball in the spring. Between the three sports the Bulldogs have had 30 playoff games in the last four years, and in most cases Bess and Whalen had an impact.

“Any time you play all three sports and you’re competitive in all of them you develop some toughness with the situations where you’re on the line to win the game, you’re at bat to win the game or you’ve got the penalty kick to win the game,” Veneziano said. “These kids are tested. They have some toughness and I think that competitive aspect adds to their whole game. It makes them that much stronger.”

From Oliver’s shot last season to junior Madeline Wood’s inside-the-park home run as a freshman in 2014 to deliver Madison a 1-0 win over Calais in the Class C softball championship, these Bulldogs have shown a penchant for shining when the lights glow brightest.

Even if not all of them seek it out.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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