Thursday, December 12, 2013
AUGUSTA — A lot of crazy things had to happen for Cony to win the Eastern Class A girls' basketball title: A comeback almost from the dead, a few Edward Little breakdowns, and a play that worked out better than anyone from Cony could have dreamed.
Tianna Harriman of Edward Little is pressured by Cony’s Julie Arbour, left, and Emily Quirion during the Eastern Class A final in Augusta. Cony won, 44-41.
Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal
Somehow, that all happened, and Cony celebrated an improbable 44-41 victory over Edward Little on Friday night in front of a boisterous crowd at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Everyone was cheering,” said Cony guard Mia Diplock, who had 17 points, including Cony’s final six. “We (forced) a couple turnovers, so you could hear the other fans getting mad, and our fans cheering. The energy in here is unreal. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. I love it. I flourish under it.”
Top-ranked Cony (21-0) will play in the state championship game against either McAuley or Scarborough. Edward Little, the No. 2 seed, finished at 17-4.
The Rams didn’t play their best game, but down the stretch they made every play to pull out the win.
Edward Little led by 15 late in the first half and was still up 39-38 with two minutes left.
Cony posted up Diplock, and she scored inside with 1:45 to go to give Cony a 40-39 lead. At the other end, EL center Crissy Lewis (six points, 12 rebounds) hit a short shot to put the Red Eddies back on top.
Cony called a timeout with 51 seconds left and set up another play for Diplock. As Diplock watched in glee and EL Coach Craig Jipson watched in horror, two EL players simultaneously left Diplock to guard Josie Lee. Diplock got the pass from Lee and made the uncontested layup with 41 seconds left, giving Cony a 42-41 lead.
“The play was originally set up for me to get a 1-on-1 in the post, like I had gotten the time before,” Diplock said. “I guess there was some miscommunication, so they both went to Josie. I was jumping up and down, and Josie gave me the ball. It was lucky, but hey, it worked.”
“We talked about this all year – both kids went out, and nobody called the ball,” Jipson said. “So both kids went out and got the ball, and left a kid wide open underneath the basket. It’s a frustrating thing. It’s happened in practice a million times.”
Cony’s Julie Arbour came up with a key steal, and EL had to commit four fouls in the final 25 seconds before the Rams would go to the line. Cony ran off all but the last 3.5 seconds, and Diplock made both ends of the 1-and-1. When EL inbounded, Kate Sawyer tried a long pass to Ashlee Arnold, but Lee knocked it away and time ran out.
The end was especially bitter for the Red Eddies, because they had the best of everything in the first half. Freshman Tianna Harriman came off the bench and hit three 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beating prayer from the right corner to give EL a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. Sophomore guard Kory Norcross had all 16 of her points in the first half, and EL led 30-19.
“Last year, when we lost to Messalonskee, we were down 15 and we came all the way back to (within) three,” Diplock said. “So we knew that we had it in us, but we also knew it was going to be a big, big push at the end.”
But after hitting six 3-pointers in the first half, EL made none the rest of the way. The Red Eddies made just four of their 26 field-goal attempts after the break.
“I thought we got better shots in the second half than we did in the first half,” Jipson said. “We just couldn’t get anything to go in.”
One key to the turnaround was the defense Cony played on EL junior guard Ashlee Arnold. The high-scoring Arnold was guarded tightly by Cony senior Bethany Elwell, and finished with three points on 1-for-15 shooting.
“She’s a great player,” Elwell said. “We played them three times already this season, and I’ve had to guard her every time. My focus was just keep her in front, keep her going, frustrate her. I knew my team had my back if she got by me.”
Arnold never got an open shot. When Elwell took a breather, Arbour and Olivia Deeves stepped in to guard Arnold one-on-one.
“They have some very, very good players,” Cony Coach Karen Magnusson said. “You had to throw whatever you could at them, and just keep rotating it. They worked their tails off.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243