AUGUSTA — Never in her basketball career had Lydia Rice been so nervous. Never had she come through with so much poise, either.

The Winthrop sophomore guard grabbed the rebound of Boothbay’s last-gasp effort to tie the game with less than 10 seconds remaining, then calmly sank two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to clinch a 38-34 victory over in the Class C South girls’ basketball final Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

Top-seeded Winthrop (19-2) will play Central Aroostook in the state championship game next Saturday in this same building after avenging two regular-season losses to No. 2 Boothbay (18-3), the defending state champion.

The victory marked the program’s first regional title since 1990.

Rice finished with only two points, but they were the biggest points of the game.

“I’ve never ever had to do that. I was shaking,” said Rice. “I thought I was going to pass out. I was really bad at free throws in the beginning (of the season), but I kept working and working on it. Apparently, it did pay off. I was so happy once I made those.”

“That’s about as nerve-wracking as you can get on a couple of free throws,” Winthrop Coach Joe Burnham said. “Lydia’s just a competitor, and she knocked them down.”

Chole Arsenault led Boothbay with 20 points, including 15 of the Seahawks’ 24 points through three quarters.

They were important points, too, given that Winthrop hadn’t found anything resembling its rhythm until Madison Forgue and Sage Fortin drained consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter as part of an 8-0 run that handed the Ramblers a 27-22 lead.

Winthrop led 34-26 after tournament MVP Aaliyah WilsonFalcone made two free throws with 5:44 remaining. WilsonFalcone finished with 12 points, 10 in the first half.

“She was our offense in the first quarter, and she had the hardest defensive assignment, too,” Burnham said. “All year, she’s risen to the occasion.”

The lead dwindled to two when Arsenault made a free throw with 1:43 left. In the final 30 seconds, Kylie Brown and Jasey Smith each had looks at the tying bucket. Neither could get a shot to fall, and the 5-foot-6 Rice went flying into a pile of bodies to the left of the basket and hauled in a crucial rebound.

“They shot the ball well when they needed to,” Boothbay Coach Brian Blethen said. “I would have liked us (as a favorite in a 38-34 game). Really, for us, it was not being able to get that inside game completed. Had we been able to do that, I think maybe we would have come out on top.”

“I saw Glory (Blethen),” Rice added. “She’s so tall, and she’s an amazing player. I was just like, ‘I gotta get up there.’ Natalie Frost blocked her out, and I had to go get that ball. I got there, I held it, I got fouledm and I was like, I’m going to the line and I’ve got to calm down now.”

Five years removed from nonvarsity status because of low numbers in the program, Winthrop is on the verge of marking the 30th anniversary of its last state championship with another next week.

“It’s amazing. We’ve been building up to this moment,” WilsonFalcone said. “We’ve been told since our freshman year that 2020’s the year, and we just went out there and did it. As soon as we got going, I knew that this was the team.”

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