AUGUSTA — This was not a game the Bangor High girls’ basketball team would have won earlier this winter. The Rams were too young, too inexperienced.

But Thursday, they showed how far they’ve come.

Led by senior forward Katie Butler, fifth-seeded Bangor built a big lead, then held on to defeat fourth-seeded Cheverus 46-44 in a Class AA North quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.

Bangor (9-10) will play top-seeded Oxford Hills at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals.

Cheverus (11-8) had beaten Bangor by 22 points on Jan. 6.

“We’ve been finally playing some good basketball the last couple weeks of the season,” said Bangor Coach Joe Johnson. “A lot of it is maturity and kids understanding their roles, and feeling comfortable with each other.”

Butler had 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. Her play helped the Rams build a 16-point lead in the third quarter.

As Johnson said, “We needed all of it.”

Cheverus’ Brooke McElman (23) looks to pass the ball as she is defended by Bangor’s Katie Butler. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The Stags, behind a ferocious full-court press, forced 16 turnovers in the second half and slowly cut into the deficit, getting within 11 entering the fourth, then within 42-39 with 2:56 left on an Emme Poulin steal and basket.

But Lauren Young of Bangor stepped up to hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game with 2:26 left – off a nice kick-out pass from Megan Connor – to regain the momentum.

“Hard to believe we’ve been begging that kid to shoot all year,” said Johnson.

Abby Cavallaro, who scored 25 points, came back with a 3 for Cheverus, then found Allison Tillotson for a layup with 56 seconds left to pull the Stags within 45-44.

Connor hit one foul shot with 47.2 seconds left – the Rams had missed their previous eight free throws – for a 46-44 lead. Cheverus got the ball back with 12.9 seconds left on a Tillotson steal but could not convert after a timeout.

Tillotson missed a 3-pointer from the left corner – “My heart kind of skipped a beat,” said Butler of the shot – and Cavallaro couldn’t put in the follow.

“That last play was not what we drew up,” said Stags Coach Steve Huntington. “There was some confusion and we didn’t run it properly.”

Cheverus, which relies on 3-point shooting, never got into an offensive rhythm, especially in the first half when it fell behind 29-13.

“We only played 16 minutes instead of 32,” said Huntington. “That’s what it came down to.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH