MILO – There’s no question that both the Penquis and Stearns girls basketball teams wanted to use Thursday evening’s matchup as an early season test. The Patriots and Minutemen came into the game with a combined 7-1 record and big preseason expectations.
And just as it has done in the previous five meetings of these two teams, Penquis came away with the win – and a big boost after an early loss to Dexter.
“We knew we had to come up pumped up and shoot the ball,” said Penquis guard-forward April Allen, who finished with 15 points in the 59-46 victory at the high school gym here. “We couldn’t be scared of them. We came out with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The Patriots used an effective combination of inside and outside offense and played a tough zone defense. Penquis guard Megan Russell led the way with 20 points, including a 7-for-13 effort from the floor, as the Patriots go to 4-1 and the Minutemen fall to 4-1.
Penquis looked especially strong in the fourth quarter as the squad held off a charging Stearns team.
The Minutemen had cut the Patriots’ lead to 46-42 on two Jordan Legassey free throws. Russell responded with two free throws of her own, and then Allen connected on a short jumper that made it 50-42.
Legassey hit two more free throws to get the lead back down to six points, but Allen sank a 3-pointer off a Russell pass. The Patriots were back to a nine-point lead with 3:49 left.
“That really put us up,” Russell said of Allen’s 3-pointer. “That was the game to me. It got us hyped up and psyched to win.”
Defense took over from there: Stearns didn’t score again until Candace Achorn made two free throws in the final minute. The Minutemen were also done in by a backcourt violation and a traveling call in the final two minutes.
Patriot guard Lindsay Hamlin chipped in with 11. Penquis showed its range Thursday, hitting perimeter shots, driving for layups and short jumpers, and occasionally working the ball inside.
“We’ve really been working on setting picks in practice and that worked tonight,” Allen said. “We knew we had to open up and use back picks and that really helped us.”
Stearns could have made it much closer but its inside players couldn’t finish shots against Penquis’ different zone defenses. Minutemen center Jen Raymond and forwards Ashley Boynton and Candace Achorn combined to go 3-for-26 from the floor.
“We had tons of opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize,” Stearns coach Greg Friel said. “Jen had a bunch and just didn’t finish. Normally if she gets the ball in the paint she’s pretty consistent. We also didn’t box out for beans tonight. Usually we box out pretty well, but [Penquis was] getting three or four shots.”
Executing the zone was key for Penquis. It left the Minutemen open on the perimeter, but they only hit two of their eight 3-point tries.
“It just seemed to work,” Russell said. “It forced them to shoot outside rather than get it inside to Raymond.”
Stearns guard Lesley Osborne (15 points) came off the bench to help keep the game close in the second quarter. The Patriots were ahead 26-13 when Osborne made two jump shots, a free throw and a 3-pointer for an 8-0 run that cut Penquis’ lead to five points. Allen ended the spurt with a fast-break layup and a jumper in the lane to make it 30-21.
PATRIOTS 59, MINUTEMEN 46
Stearns (4-1) Penquis (4-1)
Player G AG F AF TP Player G AG F AF TP
K. Nason 1 4 1 2 3 Russell 7 13 10 20
Legassey 2 6 4 4 9 L. Hamlin 5 11 0 0 11
MacKenzie 2 5 3 4 7 Allen 5 14 15
Boynton 1 5 2 2 4 B. Hamlin 0 0 0
L. Osborne 6 12 2 5 15 E. Morrill 1 2
Achorn 2 9 2 3 6 Gerrish 0 1 0 0
Raymond 0 12 2 5 2 Madden 1 3 0 2
Cobb 3 6 0 6
J. Hamlin 1 6 3
K. Morrill 0 0 0
Totals 14 53 16 25 46 23 55 10 20 59
Stearns 9 27 38 46
Penquis 19 33 46 59
3-pt. goals: Stearns (2-8): L. Osborne 1-1, Legassey 1-3, Achorn 0-1, K. Nason 0-2, MacKenzie 0-1; Penquis (3-5): L. Hamlin 1-1, Russell 1-2, Allen 1-2
Preliminary: Stearns JVs 34-33