WATERVILLE — Paige St. Pierre isn’t the best basketball player in the state, nor is she the best player in Class B North. She’s not even the best player on her own team.

Yet there was no one else the Purple Panthers wanted at the foul line with the game on the line Friday night.

St. Pierre, a sophomore, hit the second of two free throws to snap a tie game with two seconds remaining, keeping the Waterville girls basketball team’s hopes of an undefeated season alive with a 42-41 win over rival Winslow in packed and raucous Donovan Gym.

“I’d take her every time at the line,” Waterville head coach Rob Rodrigue said. “She doesn’t necessarily shoot at a high percentage from the free throw line, but she’s a big-time player. I was pretty confident she was going to get one of those, to be honest with you.”

St. Pierre, who injured her hip when she was fouled in the backcourt to give herself the chance to win the game for Waterville (16-0), hobbled to the line out of a Panthers timeout. Her first attempt clanked off the back of the rim, but she regrouped to sink the second one and rescue the Purple Panthers — who saw an eight-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate and survived two missed Winslow field goal attempts in the final 15 seconds of regulation.

“I had to compose myself in that moment,” St. Pierre said of missing the first foul shot. “I was like, ‘This is a little scary.’ It was nerve-wracking but I had to pull it together, and I did what I’ve practiced.”

Out of timeouts, Winslow inbounded the ball and heaved a three-quarter court shot that had no chance at the final buzzer.

Black Raider Bodhi Littlefield became the fourth player to foul out of the game — two for each team — on the decisive St. Pierre sequence in a physical contest loaded with whistles.

“We played a tough game, and so did they,” St. Pierre said. “But we pulled it off.”

“We lost a little bit of composure,” Winslow coach Brenda Beckwith added. “You look at that one play where we’re going for the ball with two seconds left, and we didn’t need to. They’re high school kids and you can talk to them about it (in a timeout), but they’re in the moment out there and they just did it. (St. Pierre) made one, and they won the game.”

That the game was decided by a foul shot carried some measure of irony. The two teams went a combined 5 of 19 from the line in the fourth quarter.

Poor free throw shooting did little to slow Winslow early in the fourth quarter, and the Black Raiders took the lead when Paige Trask connected for her first basket since the first quarter to hand the visitors their only lead of the night — 41-40 — with 1:42 remaining.

Trask’s bucket was the final field goal of the game for either side.

“I think our youth showed up a little bit (in the fourth quarter),” Rodrigue said. “They got a little physical with us, and that disrupted what we were trying to do. They’re extremely physical, and over at their place (on Dec. 27) we handled it a little bit better.”

Waterville raced out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Winslow rallied back to cut the deficit to two after eight minutes. The Purple Panthers — buoyed by a deeper bench — survived the second-quarter foul trouble bothering both teams to take a 26-17 lead into halftime.

Sadie Garling scored a game-high 15 points for Waterville, the only player to hit double figures. Her layup off the press break 45 seconds into the final period gave the Panthers a 38-31 lead.

Winslow’s Weslee Littlefield hit a couple of key runners in the paint midway through the fourth quarter to bring the Raiders to within 40-37 with 3:13 left. Less than two minutes later, Trask (five points) grabbed an offensive rebound for the putback which handed Winslow the lead.

Travis Barrett — 62105621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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