PITTSFIELD – The strategy being used by coach Jordan Larlee and the Maine Central Institute girls basketball team wasn’t working. Andrea Crosby, Mount View’s 6-foot-3 center, was helping herself to rebounds, blocks and putbacks, and the Mustangs had the early lead to show for it.

Larlee didn’t wait long to change the scheme. And the new plan didn’t take long to work.

MCI’s switch to a zone defense helped stymie Crosby, and a strong second quarter helped the Huskies take control for good on their way to a 45-30 victory over Mount View at Wright Gymnasium Friday night.

“They could have easily come in and beaten us, because we did struggle a little bit early on,” Larlee said. “But the good teams find a way to win these types of games.”

The Huskies, who improved to 9-5, were led on offense by freshman Sara Linkletter, who came off the bench to score 13 points while adding four rebounds.

“I just knew that if I got the ball and I was open, I needed to shoot it,” she said. “I just had a feeling that it was going to go in.”

Mount View fell to 4-8, and with three Class A teams remaining among the Mustangs’ final six opponents, coach Tony Staffiere knew his team couldn’t afford a loss Friday night.

“This was it. This was our playoff game,” he said. “Looking ahead, this was a big game. … We treated this like a play-in, we prepped the kids all week for ‘this is it, if you want a chance to play in the postseason,’ just because of where the Heal points are. The best teams on our schedule are who we have left.”

The Mustangs needed a win, and at first it looked like they were on their way to one. MCI came out in a man-to-man defense and had no answer for the towering Crosby (15 points, 10 rebounds), who helped Mount View to a 15-12 lead with eight points and four rebounds in the quarter alone.

With the period over, Larlee tossed aside the old plan. For the rest of the game the Huskies came out in a zone, using sophomore center Christa Carr to match up with Crosby while always having a second player ready to help whenever she got the ball. As a result, those easy rebounds and lay-ins became fights for the ball and off-balance jumpers, and Crosby scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds over the final three quarters while Carr finished with nine boards.

“The man-to-man wasn’t working for us. … We ran our 1-2-2 zone that we ran against Winslow, and that seemed to help us,” Larlee said. “When Andrea got the ball, we just made sure, whenever she went through the paint, somebody put a body on her.”

Crosby’s two field goals in the second quarter were Mount View’s only points, and MCI took advantage to seize a 25-19 halftime lead. The Huskies built on the lead in the second half with a balanced effort featuring Ciera Hamlin (nine points, five rebounds), Sydney Morton (eight points) and April McAlpine (seven) but led by Linkletter, who scored eight of her points after halftime, including MCI’s first six of the fourth quarter to salt the game away.

“It gives us tons of confidence,” Linkletter said. “We’ve got Winslow next, so we’ve got to play as hard as we can against them. That win tonight is going to give us tons of momentum.”

Shala Davis had nine points and eight rebounds for the Mustangs, who couldn’t match the Huskies’ shooters once deprived of their paint advantage, continuing what their coach said has been a season-long theme.

“Coach Larlee made a good adjustment. … He tightened it up. The first time we played them at our place they were a little wider in a 2-3,” said Staffiere, whose team lost, 35-32, in overtime in the teams’ first matchup. “He bottled us up pretty good with that odd front, and it’s a great move. I’d zone us too. We don’t shoot the ball that well from the outside.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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