AUGUSTA — It looked like the nerves may have been too much. The youngest team in the Class A North girls basketball tournament walked into the locker room at halftime of its quarterfinal game, faced with the prospect of seeing its playoff journey confined to a quiet, quick exit.

Annie Cooke wasn’t ready to see it end that way. Neither were her Skowhegan teammates.

“We didn’t play too well in the first half. Not as well as we could have,” the sophomore forward said. “And I definitely think that we all thought we just need to pick it up. We need to get ready, we need to talk to each other, we need to be hyped-up. And I think we did.”

The scoreboard said as much. Down eight points at the break, the Indians took command with a brilliant third quarter, rallying to defeat Oceanside, 50-41, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Cooke and Mariah Dunbar led the second-seeded Indians (15-4) with 13 points, while Cooke added 10 rebounds. No. 10 Oceanside, which got 11 points from Hope Butler, finished its season 8-12.

“I think they just finally got their feet wet a little bit and decided they can play,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “Not go down without a fight.”

After a listless first half that saw Oceanside dictate the pace of the game and go into halftime up 28-20, the Indians, who sport an all-sophomore starting lineup and only one junior on the roster, nonetheless found the poise to post perhaps their most impressive quarter of the year. Skowhegan shot 8-of-11 from the field, canning a pair of 3-pointers and turning a daunting deficit into full control at 41-34.

“I think we were nervous, and I think we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was,” Dunbar said. “We picked our heads up a little more, we were more confident in the second half.”

It showed. After LeBlanc called a timeout with 7:36 left and Skowhegan trailing 30-22, the Indians rattled off the next 14 points to jump in front for good.

“I told the girls you need to shoot, or at least act like you can shoot,” LeBlanc said.

Message received. Cooke converted a three-point play after the timeout, and Alyssa Everett (nine points) followed with a pair of free throws. Then Cooke got a steal and Dunbar buried a three, evening the score at 30. Cooke had a putback for the next basket, giving the Indians their first lead since the first quarter with 5:39 left, and Everett stole the ball on the ensuing possession and took it the length of the floor for a 34-30 advantage.

“We definitely came together and played as a team, instead of just as individuals,” Cooke said. “I think we were playing more individually in the first half.”

The effort continued through the rest of the half, and though points were harder to come by in the fourth, Skowhegan made up for it on the defensive end, holding the Mariners to one field goal on 10 attempts. Oceanside had a chance with 53.9 seconds left and possession down 48-41, but Sydney Ames (eight rebounds) rebounded a missed 3-point attempt, and then another on the next series to seal the game.

“That’s what we’ve been preaching to them all year,” LeBlanc said. “Our offense is not very good, because I’m not a very good strategic guy. We’ve just got to take care of the tempo, take care of the intensity level, play defense and let the defense take care of our offense.”

When that happens, young as they might be, the Indians always have a shot.

“That gave us a confidence boost,” Dunbar said of the win. “I think now, when we play here, we’re not going to be as nervous. We’re going to be more confident and know we can play our game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.