AUGUSTA — There was little strategy, except to hurry up.
Skowhegan had possession and needed to travel the length of the basketball court in eight seconds.

“Just make sure we can get the ball inbounds and see if we can get a shot off,” Coach Heath Cowan said.

When Skowhegan finally did get the ball past midcourt, a long pass found its way into the hands of trusted senior Liz Noddin.

She banked in a layup at the buzzer to give top-seeded Skowhegan a 38-36 victory over No. 3 Brunswick in the Eastern Class A championship game Friday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

Noddin’s basket ended a defensive scrum, with the teams never separated by more than three points in the second half.

The Indians (21-0) move on to the state title game next weekend, while the Dragons are done at 16-5, but not before giving the unbeaten Indians a scare.

“We (held) them to 38 points. I’ll take that every day,” Brunswick Coach Sam Farrell said.

Senior guard Hilary Champagne led Brunswick with 11 points, matching the 11 by Skowhegan’s top scorer, guard Adrienne Davis.

Both teams tried to get the ball inside and met considerable resistance.

“They stopped our cutters. They boxed out really well,” Champagne said. “We had a hard time getting to the hoop.”

The Dragons shot only 33 percent and made 28 turnovers. But Brunswick also outrebounded Skowhegan 32-20, led by post players Emily Bryant and Lydia Caputi.

And while the Indians shot 44 percent, they also turned the ball over 22 times.

Champagne and fellow guards Jacquelyn Smith, Becky Champagne, Alexa Dearborn, Eliza Halmo and Tiana Burton were disrupting dribblers and stealing passes.

“Defense is our team’s pride,” Hilary Champagne said.

Skowhegan knows the feeling.

“Defense is a big part of what we do,” guard Whitney Jones said.

There were no easy possessions. Cowan paced the sidelines, intensely exhorting his players to “outwork them.”

“It was more fun than you can imagine,” Cowan said.

Skowhegan led 19-11 halfway through the second quarter. But 3-pointers by the Champagne girls helped Brunswick close to 19-18 at halftime.

From there, the teams went back and forth, with five ties and six lead changes.

Hilary Champagne’s baseline drive tied the game at 36 with 1:19 left.

Skowhegan drove to the basket and missed, and Brunswick got the ball back.

Brunswick’s plan was to work for the last shot. But, with 10 seconds left, an opening in the lane appeared and the Dragons drove for a shot.

“When you have the lane, you take the lane,” Farrell said.

The shot missed. The Dragons rebounded but, as Farrell was calling for a timeout, Brunswick was whistled for traveling.

“I thought we had the timeout,” Farrell said.

The referees conferred and upheld the traveling call.

On the inbounds pass, Skowhegan’s instincts kicked in.

“They were zone pressing us,” Cowan said. “The kids went right to their press-breaker, reversed the ball and hit the cutter.”

Noddin was the cutter, and Davis made the pass.

“I just saw the ball fly through the air,” Noddin said. “I jumped as high as I could. I grabbed it somehow and I just chucked it up.

“When everyone jumped on us, it was the greatest feeling.”

The Dragons watched the celebration, tears in their eyes.

“The girl made a really good pass, just over the fingertips of our defender, and she made the shot,” Hilary Champagne said. “What can you do?”