February 17

CENTER COURT: Searsport girls top Richmond

The Vikings pulled away late in what coach Molly Bishop called a ‘learning experience’ for her Bobcats.

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Tradition-wise, it was no contest. Richmond won the last three Western D titles, and Searsport hadn’t been to the quarterfinals in 13 years.

But of course, Richmond has lost a lot to graduation and went into this season with an extremely young team. The sixth-seeded Bobcats gained some valuable tournament experience, but Searsport ran to a 73-53 victory in a Western D girls basketball quarterfinal Monday morning at the Augusta Civic Center.

No. 3 Searsport is 15-4 this season, playing predominately teams from Eastern C and Eastern D. Searsport coach Mel Grant had to think when asked the last time the Vikings won a tournament game.

“I honestly don’t know,” Grant said. “It’s been a long time. It’s been probably 20 years, plus. I’m not a historian with this stuff. I go day-to-day.”

While the Vikings have six seniors, they were a little more jittery in the first half. Richmond had success getting the ball inside to Morgan Harrington (18 points, eight rebounds) or getting putbacks from Kelsea Anair (15 points, 10 rebounds). The Bobcats led 20-18 early in the second quarter.

“I feel like we played exactly the way we thought we’d play against them,” Richmond coach Molly Bishop said. “We knew that their pressure was going to cause us some problems. The first half wasn’t pretty. We’d get the ball up the court and manage to score, (but) it wasn’t always the most conventional way of doing so.”

Melinda Ogden missed her first three shots for Searsport, but rarely missed the rest of the way. Ogden scored 19 points in the first half and 28 for the game as the Vikings surged into a 37-26 lead at halftime.

“Obviously, when we started, we had a lot of nerves,” Grant said. “We expected that. We’ve had a couple weeks off. This is our first experience in the state (tournament). We got into foul trouble and what’s carried all year long has been the bench. The bench is deep and we don’t miss too many beats.”

Searsport likes to run and harass opponents with a full-court press. The teams combined for 63 turnovers and 120 field goal attempts in the game — that’s a turnover every 30 seconds and a shot every 16 seconds.

“A little slower than I wanted to go, actually,” Grant said. “I want to go 100 mph all the time. I don’t want to slow down — ever. It suits us best. We’ll take a few turnovers.”

Richmond was within eight at 41-33 early in the second half and would have been closer were it not for some struggles from the foul line (7 for 20 for the game). But between Ogden, Alice Brooks (12 points), Briana Grant (10) and Anna Bucklin (10), the Vikings had enough scorers to pull away.

For a while, Ogden appeared on track to break the Western D girls single-game record of 39 points set by Valley’s Kristin Baker in 2006. Ogden had 25 points with 4:53 left in the third quarter, but shot only four times the rest of the game.

Harrington and Haley Murphy are Richmond’s only seniors, which means the Bobcats got 33 points from freshmen and sophomores.

“I think it was a great learning experience for my kids to be on the court against a good team that they competed with for two-thirds of the game,” Bishop said. “(We had) five freshmen who’ve never stepped up on the (Augusta) floor. They weren’t really all that nervous to go out on the floor, which just shows that they’ve grown up here. They’ve been in the shadow of some strong basketball teams, but they’re not that far out of contention.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243 mdifilippo@centralmaine.com Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo
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