AUGUSTA — Scott Wing was blunt when describing his Monmouth Academy girls basketball team’s third quarter, an eight-minute horror show that allowed Richmond to sneak within a basket of the lead in the Class C South semifinals.

“That honestly was the worst basketball these girls have played in their high school careers,” he said.

In the fourth quarter, however, the defending state champions looked the part. Second-seeded Monmouth brushed off a one-point third quarter by pulling away in the final stanza, finishing off No. 6 Richmond 45-32 and punching its ticket back to the C South final.

“We started the fourth quarter with some intensity, got some good rebounds, a couple of defensive stops and got running the floor a little bit more,” Wing said. “That’s what opened it up for us.”

Abbey Allen scored 16 points for Monmouth (19-1), while Hannah Anderson added 10 and Julia Johnson had nine.

Sydney Tilton led Richmond (15-6) with 17 points. Bryanne Lancaster added five.

“Today, they made a few more (shots) than us,” Richmond coach Mike Ladner said. “Kudos to them, there’s a reason they’re the defending state champs.”

TURNING POINT: After rolling into halftime with a 25-17 lead, the Mustangs hit a wall in the third quarter. Monmouth went 0-for-7 from the field in the period, turned the ball over four times and in general looked disorganized and disinterested as Richmond pulled within two at 26-24.

“That was just horrible,” Wing said. “We came out and looked like we were sleepwalking.”

With the buzzer, everything changed. Johnson hit a 3-pointer on Monmouth’s first shot of the quarter and Anderson drove in for a layup on the next trip down, bumping the lead up to 31-24.

Richmond answered with a Lancaster 3-pointer and a Tilton free throw to make it 31-28, but Monmouth scored the next 10 points, getting four apiece from Allen and Anderson to go up 41-28, finish off a 15-4 run and put the game back firmly in control.

“In the huddle-up going into the fourth quarter, coach was like ‘Let’s go, suck it up, this is our game,’ ” Anderson said. “It was really big. A seven-point game is really close in basketball, even a 10-point lead. We had to lift the lead.”

Ladner felt the momentum swing at that point.

“I felt like that was the difference,” he said. “(Johnson) hit that 3-pointer, we come down and miss and then they got a quick layup out of it. We go from being down two to being down seven, just like that.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Despite two losses by a combined 35 points in their previous two matchups, the Bobcats came out swinging against the Mustangs early, taking a 13-10 lead on a MaryBeth Sloat 3-pointer to start the second quarter.

It was Richmond’s last lead. Abbey Allen saw to it.

The senior scored 10 points in the second quarter alone, helping Monmouth take command of the game for good.

After a Johnson basket made it 13-12, Allen gave the Mustangs the lead with an and-1 layup with 5:53 to go in the second quarter. She then scored eight of the Mustangs’ next 11 points as Monmouth built its eight-point halftime lead.

“She was obviously the one kid who played a great game today the whole game,” Wing said. “She’s a tough kid and gets the job done whenever you need her to.”

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Richmond pulled itself back into the game with its third-quarter effort, showcasing a tightened-up defense that had Ladner impressed.

“I was very pleased with our girls, and the effort they put forth,” Ladner said. “Only holding them to one point in the third quarter? That was huge for us.”

It wasn’t without regret, however. Given a prime opportunity to surge ahead of the favored Mustangs, Richmond had its own struggles on the offensive end, going 3-for-15 from the field in the quarter. For all of Monmouth’s woes, Richmond made up only three points on the Mustangs before Lindsie Irish hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go.

“At the beginning of the third quarter, I feel like we missed three or four easy shots,” Ladner said. “I guess we left a few baskets out there, but that’s part of playing basketball.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM