WALES — Pace. It’s not just a salsa brand.

No. 9 Maranacook controlled it throughout Wednesday’s Class B South girls basketball preliminary-round game, leading by as many as 17 in the second half before holding off No. 8 Oak Hill for a 42-32 win.

Sophomore Natalie Mohlar led the Black Bears (9-9) with 13 points, while senior point guard Grace Dwyer scored 12, sending Maranacook off to the regional quarterfinals Saturday afternoon against top-seeded Wells.

“It felt really good,” Dwyer said. “Playoffs is a free game. We were unfortunate to have 10 away games this year. When it comes to playoffs, it’s about who’s a better team and who wants it. We try and focus on that from game-to-game.”

Junior forward Allie LaBelle added eight points, plus dominated the paint with 12 rebounds, for the Black Bears.

Maranacook consistently outscored the Raiders through the first three quarters, forcing either turnovers or missed shots from an Oak Hill offense struggling to settle into any type of rhythm.


By the time Oak Hill hit its stride early in the fourth quarter, the Black Bears were well out of reach.

“They’re a fast-paced team, and they do a good job,” said Oak Hill coach Dale Gamage, who worked with a seven-player rotation. “They took us out of our game a little bit probably. I think we did a good job defensively, but it was a tiring game. I thought our kids played hard.”

Maranacook girls basketball coach Karen Magnusson, left, talks to junior forward Kaleigh Kubicki during a Class B South prelim game Wednesday at Oak Hill High School in Wales. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Oak Hill (9-10) was led by Ariana Thibeault with nine points. By the time she and Paige Gonya (eight points) started providing open-look buckets in the fourth quarter, Mohlar and Dwyer had cashed in yet again.

A Dwyer 3-ponter with 6:18 remaining was the final dagger.

“Timely, timely scoring,” Maranacook coach Karen Magnusson said. “(Dwyer) does a really good job of reading the game, and when there’s a time to shoot and when there’s a time to maybe slow it down. It’s always good to have a point guard that understands those things. She’s got a very high I.Q.”

Dwyer pointed to the post play from LaBelle as a game-changer, as LaBelle was able to limit the contributions of the Raiders’ 5-11 Thibeault and the 5-8 Brianna Dumas.


“We call her ‘Big Red,’” Dwyer said. “She controls the paint. She gets the rebounds when she needs to. She’s a powerhouse.”

Maranacook used that edge to open up the floor.

With Labelle joined by Mohlar and Ella Schmidt to clean up the post and limit Oak Hill to one-and-done trips down the floor, the Black Bears found long outlet passes open and settled into a stifling half-court defense with a deep bench getting involved.

“We were more focused on our defense in this game tonight,” Dwyer said. “It could have been better, but we held them to 14 points in the first half. That was a big plus for us.”

“We could have done a lot of different things,” Magnusson said. “We really focused in the half-court. We got a bunch of steals and limited their offensive rebounds. I thought we did a really good job there of controlling the pace.”

The visitors rolled out to a 12-7 lead through one quarter, moving the ball around the perimeter for open looks both inside and out. Dwyer’s 3-pointer with 2:32 left opened up a 10-4 advantage early.

The gap by the start of the second quarter could have been much wider had Oak Hill’s Brianna Dumais hadn’t fired home a rainmaker 3-ball of her own in the final minute — one of two she’d connect on in the first half.

LaBelle’s back-to-back buckets 25 seconds apart late in the second quarter opened up a 24-14 Black Bear lead, helping send Maranacook into the intermission with a commanding 11-point cushion.

“Coming out with a win and going to the (Portland Expo for the regional quarterfinals), I told the girls not to take this for granted,” Magnusson said. “So many teams don’t get to do this. We’ve been very blessed the last couple of years to be able to go every year, so we’re very excited.”

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