AUGUSTA — Some basketball programs don’t have a history of success and yearn merely to make it to the postseason.
Carrabec was like that. But the Cobras are poor sisters no more.
Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center, Carrabec won its first regional title in girls’ basketball. Their fans chanted “Green and White! Cobra Tight!” as the Cobras celebrated a 54-50 victory over Madison in the Western Class C final.
“I have been saying this group of girls has the potential to do this,” Carrabec Coach Skip Rugh said, “if they would come together and accept their roles, play as a team and be happy for their teammates no matter what. And they’ve done it. That’s why we’re here. It all came together, and they all support each other – completely.”
Carrabec, the No. 3 seed, is 18-4 and will face Eastern Maine champion Calais in the state final at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Augusta.
“It’s been our dream since I can remember,” Carrabec’s Mickayla Willette said. “It’s amazing that we’re here.”
“I don’t even know what to say,” Carrabec junior center Emma Pluntke said. “I can’t believe that we won.”
The largest lead in the fourth quarter was four points. Madison’s Alex Jarvais (eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter) knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:33 left to put the Bulldogs up 50-49, but Hannah Atwood answered for Carrabec and Willette made a free throw for a 52-50 Carrabec lead with 1:24 to play.
Atwood missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 32 seconds remaining, but Madison turned the ball over. With 16.4 seconds left, Willette was fouled. She missed both, but Carrabec’s Macy Welch (10 points, seven rebounds) swooped in and grabbed the rebound. Welch missed a follow and Madison secured the rebound, but Willette stole the ball and scored the clinching basket.
“Normally Mickayla makes those big shots,” Rugh said. “But when she got that steal, that was just beautiful. She’s a player. She just reacted to it. That is why she’s played basketball for nine months a year, since she was in the fifth grade.”
“Oh my goodness, I could not believe I missed all those free throws,” Willette said. “I was kind of freaking out. But when I got that steal and I was able to put it back for a layup, I was a little freaked out, but we still had to keep playing.”
Atwood, a sophomore, was named tournament MVP after scoring 16 points in the final. With time winding down in the third quarter, Atwood threw in a left-handed shot with her foot on the 3-point line to give Carrabec a 41-38 lead.
Carrabec shot out to a 21-10 lead early in the second quarter. Willette had seven of her 12 points in the first quarter, and Pluntke grabbed eight rebounds in the first half.
“I knew that I had to come out and play tonight,” Willette said. “We all did. I think that we did that, and that was a big factor. We were all on it.”
Things changed as Welch, Pluntke and Kate Stevens all ran into foul trouble. Madison’s Cristie Vicneire, Erin Whalen and Kirsten Wood drove to the hoop for baskets or fouls, and the score was 24-24 at halftime.
“I thought our girls played our hearts out,” Madison Coach Al Veneziano said. “We got down early, and we came back from that. I thought in the first and second half, we could have got a couple points up on them, and it would have made a big difference.”
“Coach brought us in (at halftime) and told us that we worked so hard for it, and we couldn’t let it go,” Atwood said.
The Cobras went to a zone in the second half. Though Pluntke got her fourth foul and had to sit just 2:52 into the third quarter, Rugh thought the zone ultimately protected his inside players, and Madison did not drive as often or as effectively as in the final minutes of the first half.
“I thought we could have taken it to the basket a little bit more,” Veneziano said. “But you get into offensive sets, and they felt it wasn’t there.”
The Cobras have one girls’ basketball banner in their home gymnasium, from when they lost the regional final in 1997.
“We get (the first) banner since before I was born,” Pluntke said. “I can’t wait to play Saturday.”
Madison finishes at 15-7, but it’s worth noting the Bulldogs played most of the regular season and all of the tournament without junior Bronte Elias, perhaps their best all-around player. Elias was sidelined early in the season because of a knee injury.
“A player like Bronte goes away, and you’re talking a double-digit scorer, and most times, a double-digit rebounder, and just her court sense makes up a lot,” Veneziano said. “You take her away, it does hurt, but these kids dug in, and they did a great job.”
Matt DiFilippo can be contacted at 861-9243 or at: