MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL’S Leah Hitchcock (30) goes hard to the basket as Cony’s Josie Lee fouls her during an Eastern Maine Class A semifinal girls basketball game at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday. Hitchcock scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but her Eagles fell to the unbeaten and top-seeded Rams 46-39.

MT. ARARAT HIGH SCHOOL’S Leah Hitchcock (30) goes hard to the basket as Cony’s Josie Lee fouls her during an Eastern Maine Class A semifinal girls basketball game at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday. Hitchcock scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but her Eagles fell to the unbeaten and top-seeded Rams 46-39.

AUGUSTA — Less than three weeks ago, the undefeated Cony High School girls basketball team traveled to Topsham and embarrassed a proud Mt. Ararat squad in a 56-21 whipping.

On Wednesday in the Eastern Maine Class A semifinals at the Augusta Civic Center, the Eagles once again met up with the Rams, battling hard from start to finish in an extremely competitive 46-39 loss, leaving the court with heads held high after pushing the No. 1 seed.

“There was no doubt in my mind we were going to fight hard, and we believed and had a ‘third time’s a charm’ thing going this week, and just knew we were going to step up,” said Mt. Ararat coach Kelly LaFountain, whose fourth-seeded team finished 13-7.

“It’s a tournament game, and there were four good teams up here (Edward Little defeated Skowhegan, 54-34, in the other semifinal), so we expected this game to be close and Mt. Ararat did a good job getting some good looks and breaking out on us,” said Cony coach Karen Magnusson, who wasn’t surprised with the Mt. Ararat effort. “It was a great game, and my props to Mt. Ararat for fighting the whole way.”

Still, this one was decided by the play of Cony ( 20- 0) standouts Josie Lee and Mia Diplock. The duo combined for 37 points, and in crunch time late in the fourth quarter, Lee sank two free throws and Diplock made three of four to keep the Eagles at bay.

The Eagles also found the rims unkind. In the fourth quarter alone, Mt. Ararat had six shots rim out, allowing Cony to hold onto the lead.

“It’s unfortunate it happened in a game like this, especially when we did everything we could do to win,” said LaFountain of her team’s bad luck.

Early troubles

The opening three minutes had the look of another Cony blowout. The Rams jumped ahead 7-0 and Mt. Ararat standout Mallory Nelson was on the bench with two quick fouls. LaFountain called a pair of timeouts to settle her team.

Lee, who had eight first-quarter points, made it a 9-2 Cony advantage, but Mt. Ararat found some flow behind Kristi Willey. The junior guard scored six points in the opening frame, and senior forward Leah Hitchcock completed two three-point plays as the Eagles came back to forge a 14-14 tie through eight minutes.

“We shut down the last time when they got the lead, and we weren’t going to have that happen again, with Kristi really carrying us and us getting behind her and getting on board,” said Hitchcock, who matched Willey with six first-quarter points, while Diplock led Cony with six points.

“Kristi played a great game tonight, and made Mia (Diplock) earn her points,” said LaFountain, who also praised guards Chelsea Crawford and Micaela Mitchell. “ Chelsea stepped up and Micaela was solid on defense.”

The teams traded the lead in the second quarter, with Cony grabbing a 24-22 halftime lead when Emily Quirion nailed a late 3-pointer.

The Rams created some distance in the third quarter as Mt. Ararat went cold. The Eagles scored just five points on two of 10 shooting and committed eight turnovers. Lee had six more points, with Diplock chipping in four for a 35-27 Cony lead after 24 minutes.

Down 37-30, Caitlin LaFountain fired up the Mt. Ararat crowd when she nailed a 3- pointer while being fouled with 5: 47 remaining. The sophomore drained the free throw to complete the rare four-point play and made one of two at the line moments later to bring the Eagles to within two points, 37-35, with 4:03 remaining.

But, Cony refused to fold, getting two free throws from Julie Arbour and a layup from Diplock to go up 41-35 with 1:41 remaining, and the Rams closed things out at the charity stripe from there.

“This game, for us, shows a lot of character where we didn’t make shots, were in foul trouble and had some people on the bench, but still were able to execute in different ways, and that is a credit to my girls,” said Magnusson, whose team shot 27 percent (14 of 51) from the floor but made 15 of its 21 free throws.

Coach LaFountain says goodbye to seniors Hitchcock and Molly Estes, but returns four starters next year.

“Leah and Molly were great team leaders for us, on and off the court. We had our ups and downs and they kept everyone together. We are going to miss them a lot,” said the coach. “ I would say things look good for next year as long as the kids work hard during the offseason, and if they do the right things we will be back here again next year.”

Willey and Hitchcock both scored 10 points for the Eagles, while Crawford chipped in eight points and Caitlin LaFountain six points and nine rebounds. Hitchcock pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds leading Mt. Ararat to a 35-26 edge on the glass. Mt. Ararat shot 29 percent (14 of 47) from the floor and made eight of 14 at the line.

Diplock’s 19 points led all scorers, with Lee adding 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Cony and Edward Little will meet for the Eastern A title on Friday at 7:05 p.m.

No. 1 Cony 46, No. 4 Mt. Ararat 39
Eastern Maine Class A Girls Quarterfinals
At the Augusta Civic Center

Mt.Ararat — 14  8  512 — 39
Cony — 14  10  11  11 — 46

Mt. Ararat — Kristi Willey 4-2-10, Mallory Nelson 1-0-2, Leah Hitchcock 4-2-10, Caitlin LaFountain 1-3-6, Chelsea Crawford 3-0-8, Molly Estes 1-1-3, Micaela Mitchell 0-0-0, Lindsey Cornelison 0-0-0.

Totals — 14-8-39.

Cony — Emily Sanford 1-0-3, Melanie Guzman 0-1-1, Bethany Elwell 0-0-0, Josie Lee 5-8-18, Mia Diplock 7-4-19, Julie Arbour 0-2-2, Emily Quirion 1-0-3, Hayley Quirion 0-0-0, Olivia Deeves 0-0-0, Heather Leet 0-0-0.

Totals — 14-15-46.

3-pointers — (MTA) LaFountain, Crawford 2; (C) Sanford, Diplock, E. Quirion.

Records — Cony 20-0, Mt. Ararat 13-7.

Next — The top-seeded Rams face No. 2 Edward Little in the Eastern A finals on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. Mt. Ararat’s season is completed.

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