AUGUSTA — A script that didn’t go according to the game plan. A lead that changed hands 11 times in the second half alone. A Herculean losing effort. But for all the twists and turns over the course of 75 minutes Friday night, there was no disputing Hampden Academy’s championship pedigree.

The top-seeded Broncos held No. 2 Gardiner without a field goal over the final five and a half minutes in the Class A North girls basketball final at the Augusta Civic Center, pulling away to a 43-37 victory on the back of senior Alydia Brillant.

Brillant scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the second half to lead Hampden to its third straight regional championship.

“We just needed to keep doing our stuff,” Brillant said. “Straight-up ‘D.’ Be sound on offense. Patience. It’s helped that we’ve been here before, knowing we’ve got this.”

The game was tied for a final time at 36-36 with 3:37 remaining.

Brillant hit another of the short jumpers she made her bread and butter all night just over a minute later, and the Broncos (20-1) locked down victory my making five free throws inside the final 38.3 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Junior Bailey Poore did her best to will Gardiner to the regional title, scoring 25 points spread evenly across each half. Her final field goal, though, came with 5:17 to play. Though she’d add four free throws to her tally before the evening was through, that inside bucket to cut Hampden’s lead to 34-32 turned out to be the Tigers’ final successful field goal attempt.

“Bailey played unbelievable tonight,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “Unbelievable.”

Hampden’s veteran poise, and experience in three consecutive finals appearances, arrived.

“(Brillant)’s very good,” Poore said. “Our defense, we just tried to put our best defender on her and she’s just crazy offensively. We couldn’t really stop her.”

Hampden limped into halftime having committed 14 turnovers and out-rebounded by a 15-7 count through 16 minutes of play.

“We had a pretty stern talking to in the locker room,” Hampden coach Nick Winchester said. “It was pretty direct. I looked at my seniors and said, ‘Look, we’re supposed to be the ones that are used to this environment. We’re supposed to be the ones that embrace this and are comfortable with it. Right now, we’re not.’

“We came out with a different lineup. I was going with the kids I felt were locked into the moment and embraced what we were doing.”

Bella McLaughlin and Amelia McLaughlin each added nine points for Hampden, which held its opponent to fewer than 42 points for the 18th consecutive game and hasn’t lost to a Class A North team since January 2018.

Two stretches Friday night cost the Tigers dearly.

While Hampden was careless with possession of the basketball in the first half and unable to make shots when they did get good looks — particularly from long range — Gardiner couldn’t pull away and took just a 19-17 lead into halftime.

And when Hampden finally started to look like its experience-laden self in the fourth quarter, Gardiner could not keep up. The Broncos outscored the Tigers 12-7 over the final 7:30 of the game.

“Brillant knocked down three or four backbreaking shots. It’s a testament to (Hampden) just having been through the ringer a few times,” Gray said. “I was proud of our girls. I didn’t think they backed down from the moment. Hampden’s just really, really good. They play great defense, and that obviously had an impact on us making shots. … We put ourselves in the best possible position. It’s just that they finished plays and we didn’t.”

Having been down this road a time or two before paid big dividends for the Broncos, who never seemed frazzled as the moment grew. The Broncos felt pushing the pace for 32 minutes proved beneficial.

“After three quarters, that starts to wear on teams,” Winchester said. “We get to the fourth quarter and we’re still fresh, and other teams are struggling to find their legs to get shots off. We were really good down the stretch defensively.”

Added Brillant: “All the experience of being here the last three years really helped us a lot.”

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