AUGUSTA — It’s easy to toss around cliches like “aura,” “mystique” or “destiny” during tournament time.

The Madison girls’ basketball team would prefer something more grounded, like “defense.”

Down by 13 points in the first quarter, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs pressed No. 1 North Yarmouth Academy into submission the rest of the way and left the Augusta Civic Center with a 47-37 win Thursday in a Class C South semifinal.

Madison (17-3), which last played in a state final in 2010 and has never won a state championship, will face No. 2 Hall-Dale on Saturday in the regional final.

NYA (18-2) scored the first 13 points of the game – eight by Athena Gee – but was held without a field goal during a 10-minute, 3-second span from late in the first quarter through early in the third quarter. By the time NYA’s Emily Robbins made a layup 1:47 into the third, the game had changed completely.

So, what happened in between? With his players feeling the pressure just by looking at the scoreboard, Madison Coach Adam Rich turned up the pressure on NYA.


“I think the nerves kinda got to us and we turned the ball over real early and they jumped on us quick,” Rich said. “We had to settle in on the defensive end, and I think we did that with some of the traps and rotations in our back end and slowed them down. I just think the defensive pressure was good enough for us.”

That commitment to defense set up Madison’s shooters, as Raegan Cowan (14 points overall) and Mackenzie Robbins (eight) combined for 12 points in the second quarter. Robbins made a basket off one of her five steals, and Cowan, who pulled down nine rebounds despite being barely 5 feet tall, converted a bucket off her own rebound.  

Only a 7-for-10 effort from the free-throw line in the second quarter kept the Panthers ahead, 20-18.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Varsity Maine (@varsity.maine)

Madison finished with 16 steals.

“Our offense really runs a lot off our defense, and we were getting pressure on people and making them turn it over, and then we got easy layups,” Cowan said.

The sides traded baskets to start the third, but a pair of Jacey Moody free throws with 5:17 put Madison ahead for good, 25-24. Cowan drained a 3-pointer and two free throws, and Elizabeth Kelley turned a steal into a basket to make it 32-27 after three quarters.


Madison’s Ava Landry came off the bench to grab four of her seven rebounds during the third quarter, when two Bulldogs had to sit with four fouls apiece. 

“Our bench really stepped up, whether it was energy, whether it was coming in when we needed them for big minutes, and they just did what they needed to,” Cowan said. “Everybody did their job today.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Varsity Maine (@varsity.maine)

NYA, which made five field goals in the first quarter, hit only five more the rest of the way. Gee led the Panthers with 11 points, but scored only three after her big first quarter as Cowan shadowed her. Graca Bila, NYA’s only senior, was held to four points and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, when Madison went 9 for 12 from the free-throw line to put the game away. 

NYA’s Robbins had a game-high 12 rebounds.

“We knew going in it was a tough matchup for us, with their aggressive man-to-man defense. We faced a lot of zones during the season,” said NYA Coach Tom Robinson, whose team’s only other loss was a 61-38 decision to Hall-Dale on Jan. 27. “I give them all the credit in the world. We played hard and we made some shots. 

“It’s never a good feeling when you lose, but I’m happy with how the girls battled to the end. They left everything on the court.”

Next up for Madison is Hall-Dale, which dealt the Bulldogs their first loss of the season, 69-37 on Jan. 31, after a 13-0 start. Rich believes his team has improved since that defeat.

“They took it us,” Rich said, “but from that game on, we learned, and I think we got better and better, and I think it’s going to be a great matchup for us.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.