There are times when Oxford Hills Coach Nate Pelletier has to tell Julia Colby to shoot the ball more.

“It usually comes at halftime,” said Colby, a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist.

She got the message Saturday afternoon. Colby scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, hitting two back-breaking 3-pointers as top-seeded Oxford Hills pulled away from No. 2 Portland, 45-35, in the Class AA North championship game at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Vikings (19-1) will look to defend their state championship at 7 p.m. next Saturday when they play South champion South Portland at the CIA.

“It feels incredible,” said junior guard Cassidy Dumont. “But we have unfinished business. We need to keep things at home.”

The turning point of this one was obvious. Portland (17-4) had surged to a 25-21 lead midway through the third quarter. Then, with 3:08 remaining, Bulldogs Coach Gerry Corcoran was assessed a technical foul for being out of the coach’s box. He was apparently a couple steps onto the court.

Oxford Hills went on an 11-0 run following the technical, and everything changed.

“Of course it did,” said Corcoran, who had been assessed a warning midway through the second quarter. He wouldn’t say much else, other than he was surprised because officials had simply been telling him to get back on the sideline.

Dumont hit one of the two foul shots after the technical, then Jade Smedberg scored inside. With 1:46 left in the quarter, Cecelia Dieterich hit a 3-pointer to give the Vikings the lead at 27-25. Colby followed with a drive and then a deep 3-pointer, and it was 32-25 going into the fourth.

“The bottom line is, we were two or three times late when we did not switch (defensively) properly,” said Corcoran.

Portland scored the first six points of the fourth – a banked 3-pointer by Mia Kelley and a three-point play by Kiera Eubanks – to pull within 32-31. But Colby, once again left uncovered, swished another 3-pointer with 5:43 left to make it 35-31 and restore the Vikings’ momentum.

Colby, who received the Edward “Red” McMann Award as the tournament’s outstanding player for the second consecutive year, wasn’t done.

Her floater in the lane with 3:35 left made it 39-32. Then she hit two foul shots with 1:43 remaining to make it 43-32.

“This is cliche, but in great moments in great games, great players make great shots,” said Corcoran. “And she does.”

“I didn’t want this to be my last game,” said Colby. “We all did a really good job stepping up.”

Pelletier, the Oxford Hills coach, expected this kind of challenge from the Bulldogs.

“I was just really impressed with the grit my team had,” he said. “They got down, and we decided to pick up the tempo and press a little bit, which I wasn’t sure it was going to be effective. But it turned the tempo a bit, and the girls started playing the basketball we play.”

Especially defensively.

“We had to make sure we were all focused the whole game,” said Dumont, who finished with 11 points. “One slip-up and they can start to get ahead, as we saw in the quarter we got down.”

As champions do, the Vikings kept their poise when the game was tight.

“Everyone kind of took a deep breath, no one freaked out, no one got angry,” said Dumont. “We just kept playing our game and hit great shots to put us back up.”

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