AUGUSTA — Bailey Donovan earned the Class A North tournament’s most valuable player nod Friday night, and she did it in a way the Skowhegan girls basketball team never saw coming.

Clogging up the middle and flustering the previously undefeated Indians’ guards from start to finish, Donovan turned in a 32-minute defensive effort that culminated with the go-ahead points in the final minute of regulation — lifting No. 2 Hampden to a 32-28 win over top-seeded and previously unbeaten Skowhegan in the regional final at the Augusta Civic Center.

“Our defense did it, and also our patience on offense,” said Donovan, who posted her third straight double-double of the tournament with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Hampden Academy senior Bailey Donovan, left, jumps with teammate Amelia McLaughlin after Donovan made a shot and drew a foul during the Class A North title game against Skowhegan on Friday night in Augusta. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Skowhegan’s dream ended with its first loss in 21 games this season. The Broncos (17-4) advanced to the Class A state championship game next Friday night with their second consecutive regional title.

“As we’ve talked about every game, we held them to under 40 (points), which I didn’t think was possible,” Hampden coach Nick Winchester said. “We turned their aggressiveness around on them.”

Down one with 30 seconds to play, Bronco Amelia McLaughlin found Donovan off an in-bounds play. Donovan quickly backed the ball into the paint for an old-fashioned three-point play — both handing Hampden the lead for good at 30-28, and sending fellow Miss Maine Basketball finalist Annie Cooke to Skowhegan’s bench with her fifth foul of the night.

“We were trying to get it into the post, which was kind of our plan the whole game,” Donovan said. “It wasn’t really working out, they were kind of shutting me down. But in that situation, we knew we had to get it in there.”

McLaughlin, who scored four of her six points in the final quarter, thwarted Skowhegan’s bid to tie the game with 17 seconds left, picking the pocket of point guard Sydney Ames near midcourt and taking it all the way in for a layup and a four-point lead.

“It wasn’t anticipated at all,” McLaughlin said. “It was just kind of in the moment that I saw the ball and took it. I think (Alydia Brillant) was on the ball defending her, and she was more paying attention to her. While she wasn’t paying attention, I had a open lane to get it.”

Skowhegan (20-1) went the final 4:51 of the fourth quarter without scoring a point.

“Early foul trouble and we couldn’t make a shot,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “It is what it is. They came to play, and we had a letdown.”

The Indians had taken a 28-25 lead on Sydney Reed’s 3-pointer with under five minutes remaining. They still led by one with more than two minutes to play and were content to hold the ball and force Hampden into fouling, but two chances to add points came up empty.

Alyssa Everett and Cooke each missed shots in the paint with under 85 seconds remaining.

Skowhegan’s Alyssa Everett (23) splits Hampden defenders Bailey Donovan, left, and Camryn Bouchard during the Class A North championship game Friday night at the Augusta Civic Center. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“One of those shots I wanted and one of them I didn’t,” LeBlanc said. “The one we got, I think there should have been a foul called. That would have put us up four at the line, but it didn’t go that way.”

Skowhegan’s night couldn’t have started off more perfectly, rolling out to a 10-0 lead and forcing Hampden into turnovers on seven of its first eight possessions.

But the Broncos composed themselves and closed the opening period with a 7-0 run, before outscoring the Indians 9-6 in the middle period for a tied game at halftime, 16-16. Cooke and Everett each picked up early second fouls, with Cooke not playing the final 6:40 of the first half.

That opened the door for Donovan, who scored all but her game-winning points in the first 16 minutes.

Skowhegan shot just 29.2 percent from the floor in the opening half against the 2-3 zone Hampden debuted for the first time all season. That went up only marginally in a second half in which the Indians managed just five buckets to finish the game at a 30.8 percent clip from the field.

“With Bailey in the middle, she could take away the skip pass so the guards could come out and overplay us,” LeBlanc said. “We didn’t attack very well. We didn’t do a very good job.”

The third quarter didn’t go much better for Skowhegan, but it felt like the Indians had started to find a rhythm before when Cooke (10 points) tied the game at 25-25 in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

 

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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