WALES — For four straight games, all wins, Oak Hill girls basketball coach Mike Labonte had been seeing signs that his team was starting to come together.

And even in the loss that ended that streak, Labonte saw some of those same signs.

The Raiders fell to hot-shooting Faith Blethen and undefeated Boothbay, 64-46, at Oak Hill High School on Thursday night, becoming the Seahawks’ 12th straight victim. The game featured little intrigue; the faster, taller Seahawks took command early and never gave it up, overwhelming the Raiders throughout the first half with their pressure on one end of the floor and their shooting touch on the other.

The second half, however, in which Oak Hill (8-4) began to climb back from a 40-19 deficit and cut the gap to 11 points, had Labonte seeing the positives even in defeat.

“It would have been easy for a young team in the first half to kind of fold up tent and kind of give up, but they didn’t,” he said. “Our girls really came back and battled in the second half. I’m proud of how they dug in and how they stuck together and did that.”

In the second half, Oak Hill began to find a rhythm against Boothbay’s (12-0) full-court pressure as its shots began to find twine. The Raiders went 6-for-11 from the floor while hitting four 3-pointers – three from Desirae Dumais, who led the team with 14 points – to cut the gap to 49-37 by the end of the third, then pulled to within 11 at 54-43 when Sara Moring (11 points) hit Oak Hill’s ninth and final 3-pointer with 5:25 to play.

“Most of it is just confidence,” Labonte said of the improved play. When you have a young team and you’re playing the No. 1 team, sometimes you say you can, but do you really feel like you can? I think every day, they’re kind of proving to themselves a little bit that maybe they can.”

In the first half, Boothbay looked every bit an undefeated Class C South juggernaut. The Seahawks went 17-for-33 from the field, and went on runs of 13-2 in the first quarter and 17-3 to close the second.

“I felt like, in the first half, we did a much better job of executing and just sharing the basketball in transition,” coach Brian Blethen said. “In the second half, we just couldn’t seem to connect with each other and execute.”

As the lead grew, the Raiders couldn’t find an answer for Faith Blethen. The 6-foot-1 forward swatted shots and grabbed rebounds on defense, then finished off the break with one jumper after another on the opposite end. She had 15 points after 10 minutes of play, and had 17 points at halftime.

“A lot of it is just your teammates finding you in that perfect gap, so then I have enough time to take my time on my shot and knock it down,” said the junior, who finished with 25 points. “We came up here and we were very anxious, because Oak Hill’s had a great season. They’re a gritty team, they’re always a gritty town. … Heading into tournament, it’s important to have gritty, hard-fought away games like that.”

“They’re not only 6 feet tall, but they’re also very, very athletic, and they can shoot,” Labonte said. “It’s a tough combination.”

That athleticism was on display with Boothbay’s stifling pressure, which flustered the Raiders early, generated transition opportunities and set up quick passes for easy baskets underneath – many of which went to Page Brown, who added 20 points for the Seahawks.

“We just run, just run, just run,” Faith Blethen said. “That sets the pace early, and then once the other team catches their breath, then we’re already on our run.”

“That is definitely our strategy. We want to play transition basketball,” Coach Blethen said. “That does play to our strength. … These girls are in great shape, they work hard in practice, and then it pays off for them in games like that when they can push the pace for extended periods of time.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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