AUGUSTA – Nervous? Nah.
Olivia Swan is only a sophomore, but she certainly didn’t play like one Friday.
Swan, who averaged about five points per game in the regular season, scored 16 to help third-seeded Mt. Ararat defeat No. 6 Oxford Hills 51-37 in an Eastern Class A girls’ basketball quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Mallory Nelson led Mt. Ararat with 22 points — hitting 12 of 12 free throws — and the Eagles’ various zone defenses rattled the Vikings throughout, allowing Mt. Ararat to advance to the semifinals for the fourth time in school history.
Mt. Ararat (16-3) will play second-seeded Bangor at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Eagles tied a school record for wins in a season.
“We are very resilient and focused,” said Mt. Ararat Coach Kelly LaFountain. “They know it’s one-and-done, loser-go-home. They didn’t want that. We’ve worked very hard to be in this position.”
The teams split their games in the regular season, with Abbie Eastman of Oxford Hills totaling 44 points in the two games. She hit six 3-pointers in the Vikings’ six-point win at Topsham. And the Eagles were determined not to let that happen again.
To that end they played a 1-2-2 zone, with the wings hustling to cover Eastman whenever the ball went her way. Later they switched to a 2-3 zone, with the wings having the same responsibilities. Eastman finished with 11 points, with three 3-pointers.
“Our biggest thing was just getting a hand up on her,” said Nelson. “And playing good defense and moving our feet. She can shoot and drive. It’s tough to guard her.”
LaFountain said, “We had to know where she was on the floor and get a hand up on her and try to at least contest her shot. I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The Vikings (11-8), on the other hand, had trouble containing both Nelson and Swan.
Nelson got Mt. Ararat off to a quick start, scoring seven points in the first quarter for a 9-4 lead. Swan, whose playing time has increased because of injuries, stepped up in the second when Oxford Hills clamped down on Nelson. Swan scored 12 points in the quarter, most on baseline drives, though she did hit a 3-pointer. That enabled Mt. Ararat — which never trailed — to grab a 23-15 halftime lead.
“Usually I go in and try my best, and that’s what I did,” she said. “I felt a little pressure that I had to have a big game. I knew I was going in and would have to perform.”
Oxford Hills Coach Nate Pelletier gave Swan plenty of credit.
“As a coach, all year we’ve said we’re going to make somebody other than the big kid beat us,” he said. “She beat us. What can you say? She went off. I don’t know if that’s how she normally plays — if it is she should be playing all the time.”
Oxford Hills pulled within 25-20 early in the third on an Eastman 3-pointer. But Nelson converted a pass from Caitlin LaFountain for an inside basket. Following a foul shot by Alex Rowe (17 points) of Oxford Hills, Swan drove the right baseline for a basket and Nelson followed with a three-point play that made it 32-21. The Vikings scored just three points in the final five minutes.
“All the credit, everything, goes through the way Mt. Ararat played,” said Pelletier. “They executed their game plan perfectly.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: