Cony players celebrate after winning the 2012 Eastern Class A championship at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of our new series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

Two words best describe the 2012 Cony girls basketball team: Nearly perfect.

The Rams finished the regular season 18-0, and battled through the Eastern Class A playoffs. They saved their best performance for Edward Little in the regional final, clawing back from a 15-point deficit to beat the Red Eddies 44-41 to capture the program’s first regional title since 2007.

The road to an unblemished season hit a snag in the Class A state championship, where the Rams fell to now-defunct McAuley, 54-41, at the Cumberland County Civic Center (now Cross Insurance Center) in Portland. Cony finished the season 21-1.

The Rams were full of confidence entering the season after reaching the regional semifinals in the previous year.

“I think we were all very confident in our team, going into 2012,” said Cony junior Josie Lee, who went on to play at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “I think we had a really well-rounded team, which is awesome. We had some pretty sizable guards, a post player, shooters. I think we were extremely well-rounded, even though we had lost some seniors. We were really excited going into the 2012 season.”

“That senior class, there were five of us on that 2012 team, and we all grew up playing together,” added Cony senior Bethany Elwell. “We were good, we were known as the Augusta team growing up that was hard to beat. So I think, senior year of high school, it was do or die for us. It was our last year, and we were going to make it a year to remember and give it everything we had, and we did.”

Cony was led by head coach Karen Magnusson, who was still relatively new to coaching at the time, having taken over the program in 2008 from Hall of Famer Paul Vachon, who stepped down from the role after 23 seasons, a 451-40 record and seven state championships. Magnusson was hired shortly after a standout career as a player at the University of Maine at Farmington. She had also previously played for Vachon at Cony.

“I think we all were kind of growing together,” said Melanie Guzman, a senior on the 2012 team. “Obviously, she had big shoes to fill with Paul Vachon, who was just such a big name in girls basketball in the state. She had big shoes to fill, and I think she knew that, and I think everybody knew that. I think we all had that nervous energy. We grew together. Her first year came in my freshman year. So just having her there for the start of my high school year, we really did (grow together). She built us up, and we had a really good energy. I think we all just really meshed together, learning from each other. I loved her, I know we all loved her.”

Cony had a strong mix of senior leadership and young talent. The team was led by senior point guard Mia Diplock, who averaged 16.2 points and 4.8 assists per game during the 2012 season. Diplock would be named a finalist for the Miss Maine Basketball award that season, and would go on to a successful playing career at Colby College in Waterville.

Diplock was far from the only weapon in the lineup, with Lee and Guzman rounding out the offensive effort. Cony gained confidence in each game during the regular season, particularly with its wins over Edward Little, which would be helpful later in the playoffs.

“Starting with the first game of the season, Edward Little, any game we played against them (was tough),” Elwell said. “We realized that they were a great team, and that first game of the season I remember, Josie Lee was at the line and made a free throw at the very end, with seconds left, and we won. We all looked back at that game and went ‘Hey, we just beat Edward Little.’ We knew they were going to be the team to beat, and we went on to beat them later in the season and again in the playoffs. Any game we beat them, we knew (we were good).”

Cony entered the playoffs having beaten Edward Little 58-49 to capture the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A title. Cony topped Bangor 57-47 in the quarterfinals, a game in which Diplock (25 points), Lee (13 points) and Guzman (12 points) scored a combined 50 points. Cony pulled out a 46-39 win over Mt. Ararat in the semifinals. The Rams forced 29 turnovers, and Diplock led the way offensively with a game-high 19 points. Lee added 18 points and nine rebounds.

The win set up yet another showdown — the fourth of the season — against Edward Little, with the Eastern Class A title on the line. Cony had the added advantage of having the game in its own backyard at the Augusta Civic Center.

Edward Little was ready, and took it to Cony in the first half, nailing six 3-pointers. At one point in the first half, the Red Eddies led by 15 points. At halftime, Edward Little had a 30-19 lead.

Cony’s Julie Arbour and Mia Diplock celebrate by cutting down the net after winning the 2012 Eastern Class A championship game at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

“I remember at halftime, being like ‘Oh no, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to pull this off. What are we going to do?” Guzman said. “I remember being in the locker room during that time and being kind of down, but at the same time, having that gut feeling that we were going to win. There was just a part of me that knew, we were going to win that game no matter what. I think all of us in the back of our head knew that, or wanted that to manifest, because we wanted it so bad. This was our mindset throughout the whole season, going into the Eastern Maine championship and cutting that net down, just having that whole experience. I don’t think losing was ever really an option for us. We knew we had to win, and we’d do anything we had to do to get that win.”

Instead, Cony chipped away at Edward Little’s lead thanks to an improved offense and stingy defense — Elwell, in particular, who kept EL standout Ashlee Allen to just three points and 1-for-15 shooting. Finally, Lee hit Diplock with a pass, with Diplock finishing with a layup to give Cony a 42-41 lead with 41 seconds left. Cony would hang on for the 44-41 victory.

“There wasn’t a moment of ‘We can’t do this, it’s over,'” Diplock said. “It was ‘We’ve got to buckle down and crawl back.’ There’s a photo that I remember that I remember of me hugging Emily Sanford. It was when we were maybe four points away from taking the lead. She was like, ‘We’re going to (expletive) win this.’ That was the exact moment the photo was taken. We just crushed the second half.”

“It felt so great,” Lee added. “There’s only so many chances you can get in your four years of high school. When you see a good team, you see a good team. I saw that team, and I thought I was on the best team I’ll be on in my four years. I felt relieved, I felt great, and I was so proud of us.”

The road would end for the Rams just one win shy of the Gold Ball, falling to McAuley in the state final.

Allie Clement — who would win the Miss Maine Basketball award and go on to play at Division I Marist College — led the Lions.

Nine years later, members of that Cony team look back fondly at its regional title.

“We all grew up together and watched Cony basketball like it was the Bible,” Diplock said. “Bethany Elwell, Melanie Guzman, really all of them were girls that I had spent so much time with. Katie Rollins, Cassie Cooper, Kristi Violette, you can go on and on with this list of people who we thought were just the most amazing women who we wanted to be just like. I was elated (winning the regional title). It was one of the best nights of my life.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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