AUGUSTA — Gavin Kane’s return to the Augusta Civic Center ended sooner than the trips he made regularly during his tenure coaching the Dirigo girls and boys from 1994-2009. Nevertheless, his first season at Mt. Blue exceeded expectations.

“I’d had several people tell me prior to the year that if we won six or seven games, we’d be doing well with what this team lost to graduation last year and the little experience we had coming back. They told me if we won eight, it would be superb,” said Kane, who won six Class C state championships and 12 Western C titles at Dirigo. “We decided right from the beginning of the year that we were going to do better than that.”

Mt. Blue did just that, finishing the season 11-8 after Friday night’s 43-32 Eastern A quarterfinal loss to Edward Little.

“That’s a testament to how much they progressed over the course of the season. We won 11, and actually had a 12th win in the Oxford Hills game that slipped away from us,” Kane said.

This year, the Cougars will lose four seniors to graduation: guard Rachelle Bator, center Addie Brinkman, forward Sarah Cummings and forward Moesha Harrington. Only Brinkman entered the season with significant varsity experience, but everyone from the quartet contributed to the Cougars’ success, Kane said.

“Sarah Cummings took three charges tonight. I’m not sure how many times you see high school girls do that in one ballgame. And that’s the role she’s played and did it tremendously for us all year,” Kane said. “Rachelle Bator is a great athlete that comes off the bench and gives us a spark, and then Moesha Harrington has been a key role player for us.”

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It takes size, strength and touch to be a successful post player and it was pretty clear after Lawrence’s 65-44 victory over Mt. Blue that the Bulldogs’ three interior players possess all three skills.

Nia Irving (27 points, nine rebounds), Abby Weigang (11 points, seven rebounds) and Paige Belanger (four points, 11 rebounds) each stand about 6-feet tall, and no matter what the Eagles did Friday they could not find a way to slow the group down.

“(They’re) incredible,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “They’re able to hold their seal, they have great hands, they finish around the rim and they make free throws. They do everything you need a post player to do.

“I thought we battled. I thought physically we tried to do everything that we could do, but they have that size.”

Of the 27 points Irving scored, 12 of them came as a result of conventional 3-point plays where she had the strength to battle through contact, touch to finish the shot and skill to knock down the free throw. Weigang also had an and-one in which she made the foul shot as well.

“We knew we had a size advantage going into it,” Irving said, “so we like to try to pound it into the post.”

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Going from playing in smaller high school gyms to a place like the Augusta Civic Center can be a daunting task for seniors, yet for freshmen it can be downright terrifying.

Messalonskee may not have gotten a win over No. 2 seed Lawrence on Friday, but in her first game at the Civic Center, Eagles’ freshman Ally Turner hardly looked intimidated. The first-year player finished with a team-high nine points and often fearlessly drove the ball into the heart of the Bulldogs’ stout defense.

“She’s played a lot of basketball at high levels and she’s able to control that emotion and keep it in check,” Derosby said. “She’s smart, she plays tough and she knows the game so she’s just able to overcome a lot of things just by being smart.”

For as calm as Turner looked, she had to admit she was a little on edge in the time leading up to the game.

“I’ve practiced here and done a camp here, but I’ve never actually played in a big game here or a big facility like this,” she said. “I was nervous before the game but when it started my nerves kind of disappeared.”

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Brunswick senior guard Julia Champagne finished the regular season second in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in scoring, averaging 22 points per game. In the first half of Friday’s quarterfinal game against Oxford Hills, however, Champagne was held scoreless.

“We were moving the ball well on offense (in the first half), but we weren’t looking to score,” Brunswick coach Sam Farrell said. “You saw in the second half, we started looking to score. Julia just hit some tough shots, those intermediate shots.”

Champagne scored 13 points in the second half, and the Dragons, who trailed by a point at the half, took a 37-32 win.

“I wasn’t really looking for the shot. I was a little bit nervous coming out, but everyone was giving me the ball. They were saying ‘Shoot.’ I finally started shooting in the second half and they were going in,” Champagne said. “I wasn’t worried about the points. It was a really close game. If we’re winning, that’s fine. I don’t really care.”

Farrell said he thought Champagne found some motivation from the big stage in the second half.

“I think Julia realized all of a sudden she’s a senior. There were 16 minutes to go, and she made a concious effort she wanted to play more,” Farrell said.