TEAM effort keys Mt. Ararat, 52-46
On Friday in the Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center against fifth-seeded Messalonskee, the coach had to come up with a different strategy after watching four of those starters pick up at least three fouls.
Reserve guards Micaela Mitchell ( four points) and Lindsey Cornelison gave LaFountain solid minutes, while forward Molly Estes blocked three shots, pulled down four rebounds and played tough defense on Messalonskee senior center Megan Pelletier, who watched a majority of the first half after picking up two quick fouls.
“This was a major team effort, and they each stepped up on offense and defense and made big plays for us,” said LaFountain, whose Eagles will face No. 1 Cony (a 57-47 victor over No. 8 Bangor) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Eastern A semifinals. “I felt we had a balanced team all season, and I hoped others would step up and they did. Everyone had something to do with this win today.”
Among the starters, there was Caitlin LaFountain, who put her Eagles onto her back in the first half, scoring 13 points as Mt. Ararat took a 29- 21 halftime lead.
“That is the best half I have seen her play all year,” said coach LaFountain of her daughter.
When fouls, three in a matter of 90 seconds, sent the sophomore LaFountain to the bench with four infractions early in the second half, Mallory Nelson took her turn in the limelight, scoring all eight of Mt. Ararat’s points in the frame to hold off a Messalonskee run.
And lastly, there was Leah Hitchcock, who went scoreless for three quarters but stepped up in the fourth with six big points, three offensive rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We always had one person step up, and when Messalonskee took that away, another person stepped up, which turned out to be really important today. It was just a really good team effort today,” said Nelson, who finished with a team- high 16 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Badeen, LaFountain hot
The early going was a battle between LaFountain and Messalonskee senior guard Mary Elizabeth Badeen. The Mt. Ararat sophomore had six points, while Badeen nailed two 3-pointers and two short jumpers for 10 points as Messalonskee grabbed a 13- 12 lead.
Pelletier’s only two points of the first half brought her team to within two, 19-17, late in the first half, but Mt. Ararat went on a 10-1 run for a 29-18 lead. Chelsea Crawford nailed a trey during the spurt, and LaFountain capped off her big first half with a putback.
Messalonskee’s Kassandra Michaud gave her team a lift with a 3-pointer at the buzzer as Mt. Ararat held a 29- 21 edge at the break.
Mt. Ararat struggled with fouls early in the second half, as Kristi Willey, Hitchcock and LaFountain each picked up their third foul in matter of 38 seconds, and when LaFountain was whistled for her fourth with 5:21 left in the frame, the sophomore went to the bench.
The play of Mitchell, Cornelison and Estes kept Messalonskee at bay as Mt. Ararat took a 37-26 lead on a Nelson layup.
“We were getting good looks, but at some point we got a little too cute with the ball and made some iffy passes,” said Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby, whose team found a rhythm with an 8-0 run, including Badeen’s buzzer-beating trey to close the third quarter down 37-34.
But, Mt. Ararat refused to fold, getting a pair of free throws from Hitchcock and a short jumper from Willey to extend its advantage back to seven points, 41-34.
Despite playing with four fouls, Pelletier scored eight fourth-quarter points to finish with 13. Two buckets from the senior brought her squad to 43-41 with 4:47 remaining, but Hitchcock scored four points by going right at Pelletier, who did everything she could to avoid picking up her fifth foul. Nelson drove the basket moments later for a 49- 42 Mt. Ararat lead with 3:10 left, and finished off Messalonskee with a three- point play one minute later.
“What we did today was just play, finally, and it came out the way we wanted,” said Caitlin LaFountain.
Willey added six points and three assists for Mt. Ararat, which shot 47 percent (21 of 44) from the field and made eight of 16 free throws. Hitchcock had six rebounds and blocked four shots, while Crawford dished out five assists, had three steals and five caroms. Mt. Ararat held a 31-20 rebounding advantage.
Badeen led Messalonskee with 19 points, including four 3-pointers. She also had six rebounds and four steals. Messalonskee shot 28 percent (14 of 49) from the floor and finished 13 of 22 at the charity stripe.
Mt. Ararat 52, Messalonskee 46
Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals
At the Augusta Civic Center
Messalonskee — 13 8 13 12 — 46
Mt. Ararat — 12 17 8 15 — 52
No. 5 Messalonskee — Megan Pelletier 5- 3- 13, Kassandra Michaud 2- 1- 6, Mikayla Turner 0-1-1, Nicole Collier 0-0-0, Mary Elizabeth Badeen 5-5-19, Kelsey Mayo 1-1-3, Emily York 0-0-0, Rachel Wacome 1-2-4, Sara Grenier 0-0-0.
Totals — 14-13-46.
No. 4 Mt. Ararat — Kristi Willey 3-0-6, Mallory Nelson 6-4-16, Leah Hitchcock 2-2-6, Caitlin LaFountain 5- 2- 13, Chelsea Crawford 2-0-5, Molly Estes 1-0-2, Micaela Mitchell 2-0-4, Lindsey Cornelison 0-0-0, Olivia Swan 0-0-0.
Totals — 21-8-52.
3-pointers — (Mess.) Michaud, Badeen 4; (MTA) LaFountain, Crawford.
Records — Mt. Ararat 13-6, Messalonskee 13-6.
Next — Mt. Ararat faces No. 1 Cony in the Eastern A semifinals on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.