PARIS — Veterans of the high school basketball tournament know they have to ratchet up their intensity and overall level of play for the postseason, and that it’s not as simple as just flipping a switch when needed.

Top-seeded Oxford Hills, with a junior-laden roster, has compiled enough experience to not only understand what tournament time means, but to put that understanding into practice. The Vikings demonstrated just that Tuesday against No. 8 Lewiston in a Class AA North girls’ quarterfinal.

The Vikings dominated the first half, launching more than three times as many shots as the Blue Devils in the first quarter and then shutting them out in the second quarter in an overwhelming 77-26 victory.

Julia Colby, a junior, scored 11 of her 16 points in the first quarter, and added seven rebounds, four assists and five steals to an outstanding all-around performance for Oxford Hills (17-2). Cassidy Dumont, a sophomore, also scored 16 points, all in the first half, while junior Cecelia Dieterich added 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Maddy Foster led eighth-seeded Lewiston (4-15) with 12 points and four rebounds.

The Blue Devils took an early lead on Emily Strachan’s 3-pointer from the top of the key on the opening possession. But then the Vikings’ swarming full-court pressure kicked in, forcing four turnovers in the next 90 seconds which resulted in eight straight points, highlighted by Dieterich’s steal and fastball pass to Dumont for a transition layup.

“That’s one of the things that we stressed in the locker room; we wanted to come out strong, just because when you get in one of these games, you don’t want it to go down to the wire,” Oxford Hills Coach Nate Pelletier said. “Lewiston has played a lot of close games this year. It doesn’t matter what their competition is, and we didn’t want it to come down to that. We’ve got some kids that really can ramp up the intensity.”

Colby, the Class AA North Player of the Year, said the Vikings weren’t going to take anything for granted even though they beat Lewiston twice during the regular season.

“I think we had to come into the game not too confident and had to play it like we’re playing any other team, and get ourselves ready for the next game,” she said. “We practice pressing and playing fast-paced a lot, so I think that helps us a lot and gives us energy.”

Colby scored from inside and outside while pouring in nine consecutive points as the Vikings opened a 15-6 lead. Dieterich’s 3-pointer capped a first quarter in which the Vikings forced 11 turnovers and put up 25 shots to the Blue Devils’ seven while building a 30-10 lead.

“We wanted to see if I could really just set them free and say, ‘Hey, let’s go as hard as we can,'” said Pelletier, the Class AA North Coach of the Year. “One of our strengths this year has been playing at a high intensity. It’s taken a toll on some teams, us being able to play with that high intensity the whole game. It obviously affected (Lewiston) early.”

Lewiston took better care of the basketball in the second quarter but couldn’t get any shots to fall. The Vikings’ second unit, led by senior Jadah Adams and juniors Brooke Carson and Jade Smedberg, maintained the defensive intensity.

Dumont followed up her eight-point first quarter with eight more in the second to help the Vikings take a 46-10 lead into halftime.

Oxford Hills pulled back into half-court, man-to-man defense for most of the second half, and Foster took advantage for seven of Lewiston’s nine points in the third quarter. That gave Pelletier something to point to after a nearly flawless first half.

“The intensity level came down, and we’ve got to really work on that,” Pelletier said. “We can be just as intense in the half court. It just didn’t happen in the second half.”

The Vikings next face the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between No. 4 Portland and No. 5 Edward Little in the regional semifinals, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Pelletier said his team has a better idea of how to ramp up the tournament focus and intensity during the long layoff.

“Luckily, we’ve done it the last couple of years, so the girls are kind of used to that,” Pelletier said.

“Just play hard in practice,” Colby said, “and then once it gets closer (to the semifinals), just get more excited.”


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