WINSLOW — Do you know how much of Friday’s game the Waterville Senior High School girls basketball team led in regulation? Eighty-eight seconds.

Eight-eight seconds early in the first quarter. Eighty-eight seconds of get a feel for the game because the pressure comes later basketball.

The Purple Panthers trailed Winslow by 10 points at the end of the first quarter, and by 10 again in the final minute of the third. Forcing overtime was impressive in itself. Winning in overtime, 67-58, was an accomplishment the Panthers hope is a stepping stone for another deep tournament run at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor next month.

“Last year we were pretty young. We were still figuring things out. This year we’re focused on our maturity,” said Waterville junior Jayda Murray, who scored seven of her 19 points in overtime. “Instead of getting mad at the circumstance, we have to focus on OK, what can we do to improve our situation right now?”

Waterville expected a test from Winslow. Last month, the Panthers (12-1) beat the Black Raiders (8-5) 40-33 at home. This time, in Winslow’s loud gym, the Black Raiders were in control most of the way.

“They’re a good basketball team. It’s one thing if you get down to a team that’s not the quality of Winslow,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “We’ve been running ahead quite a bit. We haven’t been down by 10 all season long.”

Until Paige St. Pierre hit a pair of foul shots nine seconds in overtime, Waterville had not led since a 4-3 cushion early. The game developed a pattern. Winslow would build up a lead, and Waterville would rally to make it close. The Panthers cut their deficit to three points midway through the second quarter, only to see Winslow’s Silver Clukey nail back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead back to nine points. Waterville cut the lead to two at the half, and even tied the game at 31-31 early in the third, only to have the Black Raiders push it back to 10, 49-39, on another Clukey three.

“Winslow disrupted us defensively. I thought they really took care of the ball against our pressure in the first quarter,” Rodrigue said.

A Maddie Martin foul shot got Waterville to within a point, 51-50, with 2:25 to play. Clukey, who continuously gave the biggest moments a warm hug, stuck the final of her six 3-pointers to give Winslow a 54-50 lead with just under two to play.

Martin tied the game with a layup with 31.4 seconds left, but missed the and one free throw. Missed free throws was a trend for the Panthers. Waterville was just 20 of 38 at the line. It’s one of the reasons they played from behind most of regulation, and they know it’s something that has to get better.

“Even out of practice, I know a lot of us are working on free throws. That’s just fundamentals. You’ve just got to work on stuff like that,” said Murray, who was 3 for 8 and the line and just 1 for 6 in overtime.

Don’t let Waterville’s free throw woes overshadow the effort it took to complete the comeback. Winslow is a strong defensive team, and both Roderigue and Murray were right to stress composure and the Panthers ability to keep it as the ultimate difference in the game.

“It got a little bit chippy at times. Chippy’s the wrong word. It was a physical game. It was physical, it was aggressive. It’s always like that. I thought we really held our composure during that time. We focused on the things we were going to do,” Rodrigue said.

“They’re always going to compete with us physically. For us to always be a little bit on top of things mentally, be more mature, is big,” Murray said. “Anything can get called on you. With our defensive pressure we can get pretty aggressive, and  that doesn’t always go well.”

Murray referred to her team’s first half foul trouble. Starters St. Pierre and Sadie Garling each sat for long stretches of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. That the Panthers didn’t cave with two of their best players on the bench is a part of that mental growth.

“I don’t know if I’m foolish for having that rule, but if they get two (fouls), as long as the game’s not out of reach, I want to get them out of there so we can get to third and fourth quarter with those kids,” Rodrigue said. “We’ve got some kids who get JV minutes, who practice with us every day and really work at it. Jackie Gray and Sadie Works really gave us some good minutes in that second quarter.”

Waterville’s next two games are on the road, at Oceanside on Monday and at Mount View on Friday. The Panthers won the first game against both by large margins. They likely won’t be forced to make big comebacks in either. But they know if they stick with the plan and buy into the process, they can.

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