AUGUSTA — After a season of being overlooked and under-appreciated, the Monmouth Academy girls basketball team reminded everybody of their pedigree Saturday night.

Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist Tia Day turned in her best effort of the tournament and the Mustangs’ veteran poise paid off in the final minutes, as No. 2 Monmouth bested top-seeded Boothbay 51-47 for the Class C South championship at the Augusta Civic Center.

In a game that everybody on both sides had seemingly been looking forward to since early December, Monmouth (20-1) earned the opportunity to defend its Class C state title.

“I think it is (more special),” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said of beating Boothbay. “I think it is. Last year’s (regional) championship game was a little bit anticlimactic because we’d beaten Boothbay in the semifinal. That’s obviously the team we know we have to compete with.”

Day scored 14 points to lead the Mustangs, while junior Kaeti Butterfield came off the bench to score 12 points and pull down 10 rebounds. Senior Abbey Allen added 12 points, including five from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, and was named the Robin Colcord Award winner as the tournament’s most outstanding player.

“The thing I’m most proud about is that Abbey Allen got recognized for the player that she is,” Wing said.

For Boothbay (19-2), junior Faith Blethen had a game-high 21 points. After battling illness all week and being severely limited in the Seahawks’ semifinal win over Madison, Blethen was on the bench for the first seven minutes of the game, but she contributed dominant minutes in both the second and third quarters.

“We’re not going to make excuses,” Boothbay coach Brian Blethen said. “Monmouth is a very good team. They’re a very good basketball team.”

Monmouth will meet undefeated Houlton in the Class C state championship game Saturday at the Civic Center. Houlton beat Dexter in overtime Saturday night in Bangor.

TURNING POINT: Forty seconds after Boothbay’s Page Brown made two free throws to tie the game at 38-38 early in the fourth quarter, Day connected on a 3-pointer that put the Mustangs ahead for good.

Even though more than five and a half minutes still remained, the lead allowed Monmouth to change their offensive approach. By stalling as if they were nursing a five-point lead with 30 seconds to play — holding the ball for long stretches near midcourt — the Mustangs forced Boothbay to extend its defense to cover the entire floor.

The approach against Boothbay’s attempts at trapping only opened the floor for some easy looks inside.

A less experienced team would have been playing with fire to try and play so conservatively.

“You need a veteran team, and you need a team with poise,” Wing said of the late-game strategy. “They never get flustered. When you’ve got people like Tia and Abbey out there, they’ve played a lot of basketball.

“They’ve experienced a lot of stuff, and there isn’t much they haven’t seen.”

TEAM DEFENSE: Blethen finished with 21 points, and Brown added 15. Together, they accounted for 77 percent of Boothbay’s points at the end of the night.

The Seahawks’ next highest scorer, Sydney Meader, managed only six points.

“Typically, that has created openings for her teammates and (Faith has) been able to distribute the ball,” Brian Blethen said. “Give these guys a lot of credit, they did a good job defensively and they locked down the other players. Those players didn’t come open like they typically do.”

Monmouth, meanwhile, had three players in double figures and five players with five or more points.

“That’s what we say every day, that a team of good players will beat a few great players every day,” Wing said.

ON POINT: Monmouth shot better than 50 percent from the floor as a team (52.9 percent) and committed only 12 turnovers in the game — just five after the first quarter.

It helped negate a sizable rebounding advantage for Boothbay.

“They can shoot the basketball,” Brian Blethen said. “Those girls, if you leave them open for one opportunity, they’re going to knock it down. They capitalize on your mistakes better than any team there is.”

Boothbay, by contrast, only made 37.2 percent of its attempts from the field (19 of 51). The Seahawks committed 12 turnovers.

“They’re really tough,” Allen said of defending Boothbay’s size down low. “You just work hard. It’s always a tough matchup.”

CLUTCH PERFORMANCE: Day had scored just five points in each of her first two tournament games this week. She scored eight points in the second quarter alone Saturday night.

Last winter’s most outstanding player in the tournament, Day was 5 of 9 (55.5 percent) from the field against Boothbay, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. She also made a key fourth-quarter steal with 2:20 remaining and Monmouth holding a 45-40 lead.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter; @TBarrettGWC

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