STANDISH – Three seconds to play and Bonny Eagle’s Tracie Townsend grabbed an inbounds pass, then jumped backwards a step – she needed to plant beyond the arc, because only a three-pointer would bring the Scots even with the Stags. Under the tonnage of in-your-face Cheverus defensive pressure, however, Townsend lost her footing and lost control of the ball – it skittered away across the court as the last buzzer sounded.
So the last play in a fiery tug-of-war between the Scots and the Stags on Saturday night, Jan. 14, went against the home team; 59-56 the final. Townsend herself proved critical throughout the evening: She was part of an explosive, second-quarter comeback, in which Bonny Eagle chewed through most of a 10-point deficit, and she added baskets in all four quarters.
“A couple of those open shots,” Bonny Eagle head coach Scott Regan said, “[Cheverus] hit ‘em in the first half, in the first quarter. Take away one of those pieces; if we get one more finger on a ball, one more deny, we’d be okay. We played with a lot more heart tonight, and it showed down the stretch. We just couldn’t put it in the basket enough, and keep them from doing that.”
The teams took turns draining threes to begin the action, but Cheverus soon pulled ahead, going to 10-6 on two by Brooke Dawson, 14-8 on two by Abby Cavallaro and 21-10 on two by Kathryn Kane. But the Stags’ acceleration would level off from there, and the first closed at 28-18.
Conversely, the second belonged to Bonny Eagle. The Scots ratcheted up their defense to hold the Stags to just four points in the stretch, while hashing 13 on the attack: Mackenzie Emery opened with a three, Natalie Bushey soon added two, Townsend three and Deirdre Sanborn two. Lauryn Fagan completed the push with a three-point play. 32-31 at the break.
“We started to focus on actually playing defense,” Regan said. “When you give up 28 points in a quarter, you’re not, obviously, doing a lot right. We knew they could shoot; when they’re on, they’re on and they’re tough to beat. The part that killed us was we were giving up the little rebounds and the bunnies inside. We start to try to clean that up and that kind of took care of business.
Interestingly, during the uphill half, Cheverus committed far more fouls (nine) than Bonny Eagle (two) – an opportunity the Scots seized upon. “That kept us in, that brought us back in,” Regan said of his girls’ work from the line, “I’m not going to lie to you. We had some timely shots from the floor, but…I don’t want to make a big deal out of it; I don’t know how many we made, but I know we missed six, because that’s the first thing I’m going to check. But I’d say we missed at least that many layup opportunities.”
Neither team dominated the latter quarters; instead, both the third and the fourth proved hotly contested. Cheverus pulled ahead on Dawson and Cavallaro contributions to 39-33 to start the third, but points by Bushey, Sanborn, Emery, Townsend and Samantha Averill kept the Scots abreast of their guests and the quarter finished with Stags out front by a mere three, 44-41.
Unfortunately, those three points would hang in the air for the remainder of the game.
The opponents traded runs through the final eight minutes: Cheverus pulled ahead 54-46 on a pair of Kaylin Malmquist buckets, and appeared to be taking control in the home stretch, but a Sanborn two in the waning minutes kicked off yet another Scots surge.
The Stags nearly shot themselves in the hoof, then, committing a series of turnovers the Scots rabidly capitalized on. Cavallaro fouled and Emery converted; the team traveled, Cavallaro fouled out and Emery converted again. Suddenly, Bonny Eagle was within two at 58-56.
With just seconds remaining, the Scots fouled Malmquist, who went one for two at the line. Fagan picked up the live ball; she scanned the court before finally inbounding to Townsend – who then took her fateful leap backward, into downtown territory. Alas, guarded closely, she stumbled, and the clock ran out. 59-56 the final.
Bonny Eagle slips on the loss to 4-6. The Lady Scots are currently ranked seventh in AA South, a slot back from the playoffs bracketing. Still, fully half their schedule lies ahead of them, including plenty ripe-for-the-taking Heal Points. They travel to No. 7 Windham (3-7 in AA North) on Wednesday the 18th and host Biddeford (12th in A South at 1-9) on Friday the 20th.
“They’re a good club,” said Regan of the Stags. “We’re trying to get to that next level. If you look at our losses – take away Gorham: We lose to Sanford by five, or eight, something; lose to TA by three. I mean, those little mistakes are still biting us, and we’ve got to get beyond those. We’re getting pretty close.”
Cheverus, meanwhile, jumps to 7-2. The Lady Stags sit fourth in AA North, a slot back from Deering (7-3) and one ahead of Bangor (4-6). The team welcomes South Portland (third in AA South, 6-2) on the 18th and Windham on the 20th.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Cheverus’s Abby Cavallaro ascends toward the net; Bonny Eagle’s Mackenzie Emery does what she can to obstruct Cavallaro’s progress.
Cheverus’s Emme Poulin lofts an inside jumper.
Stag Michaela Jordan clashes in midair with a Bonny Eagle opponent.
Brooke Dawson drives to the basket for Cheverus in their win over Bonny Eagle on Saturday night.
Stag Kaylin Malmquist drives alont the baseline, guarded by Scot Tracie Townsend.
Bonny Eagler Natalie Bushey launches a ball toward the net; Cheverus’s Brooke Dawson attempts to block.
Sam Averill sidles underneath towering coverage by Brooke Dawson.