AUGUSTA — At halftime, the upset was possible. After three quarters, it was probable.

But the Hampden Academy girls basketball team had been in that spot before. Gut checks are nothing new for the Broncos. And as they proved Friday, neither is surviving them.

Top-seeded Hampden withstood No. 8 Gardiner’s shot at a stunner, overcoming a third-quarter deficit and outlasting the Tigers, 37-29, in the quarterfinals of the A North girls basketball tournament at the Augusta Civic Center.

Bailey Donovan led the Broncos (17-2) with 14 points and 13 rebounds, 11 of which came in the second half. Braylee Wildman had six points, while Brooklynn Scott had seven rebounds and Sophia Narofsky had six.

Aimee Adams (seven rebounds) and Leslie Stevens led Gardiner (9-10) with six points apiece, while Logan Granholm grabbed eight rebounds.

“I just love the effort. I’m so proud of the effort we put out there,” Tigers coach Mike Gray said. “I thought we had it set up, how we wanted it to (be). … They took advantage of a couple little mistakes, and that’s what good teams do.”

TURNING POINT: Right from the start, the game was ugly, with physicality on both ends and points hard to come by.

In other words, just as Gray was hoping it’d be.

“We did exactly what we wanted to do, for the most part. We knew we were going to have to make it ugly and cheat defensively, cheat from the middle or cheat from the front to try to contain Donovan,” he said. “I thought we did a great job. … I’ll take (14 points).”

More importantly, the Tigers had the lead, up 23-19 as the game transitioned into the fourth quarter and fueled by a hard-nosed defense that allowed only four points in the quarter.

Against that backdrop, however, Hampden rallied. Camryn Bouchard picked a good time for her only basket of the game, knocking down a 3-pointer on the team’s first shot of the fourth to trim the gap to 23-22, and Scott came down and canned a three with 6:02 to play, giving Hampden its first lead since 2:31 was left in the first quarter.

“We have been in this situation four times this year where we’ve come at halftime down a couple of points and haven’t played our best basketball,” said coach Nick Winchester, whose team trailed 17-15 at halftime. “So they were able to draw on that experience. Keep competing, keep battling.”

FINDING DONOVAN: With the game tilting, the Broncos went to their best player to put the game away.

Bailey converted a three-point play with 5:27 left, bumping the lead to 28-23, and after Gardiner cut the deficit to 31-29 with 3:40 to play, she made a free throw and then a layup on the next trip down to put the Broncos ahead 34-29 with 1:48 to go.

After scoring four points with two rebounds in the first half, Donovan found her rhythm when her team needed it, working around Gardiner’s tactic of collapsing the defense in on her when she got the ball to put up a double-double in the second half alone.

The 6-foot-3 center also stymied the Tigers’ efforts at points in the paint, blocking five shots.

“We basically went back to re-emphasizing ‘We’ve got to play the game from the inside out,’ ” Winchester said. “We’ve got to continue to look to her, even if she’s not in a position to score.”

Gray acknowledged that that adjustment worked against his defense.

“I think they figured it out a little bit,” Gray said. “They did a better job of inside-out, to try to get us scrambling with all us back and then get it back in.”

ICE COLD: While Hampden rallied, Gardiner couldn’t find an answer.

The Tigers went 1-for-15 from the field in the fourth quarter, missing long and short shots alike that could have halted the Hampden momentum.

“Our shots weren’t falling, but we kept fighting for it,” said Granholm, who scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in a gritty fourth-quarter effort that almost helped Gardiner back into the game. “I don’t think it was nerves. We just didn’t have some legs at points. We were working our butts off on defense, and we just didn’t quite have enough for the shots.”

Granholm had a putback and then a pair of free throws to cut the gap to 31-27 and Bailey Poore made two more to make it a two-point game, but Gray knew another shot or two from the field could have created a different outcome.

“We just couldn’t make enough shots,” he said. “I thought we got looks, we had a few easy ones early that we missed, and in the fourth quarter we had that stretch where we just couldn’t hit a shot.

“Our margin of error was that small. … That was the best defense we played all year. On a night where we’re making a few more shots, who knows how that turns out.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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