By Jessica Bloch, Of the NEWS Staff - BANGOR - The Dexter girls basketball team has put a scare into its opponents all season.The tables may have been turned a bit in Saturday night's Eastern Maine Class C championship game, but the end result was the same.
Facing its biggest rival from the regular season, the Tigers made their free throws down the stretch and held off Central of Corinth 58-48 at the Bangor Auditorium .
Dexter, now 21-0, earned its second straight berth in Saturday's 7 p.m. Class C state championship game. The Tigers will face defending champ Dirigo of Dixfield, which is also undefeated.
"I think they needed to get through this," said a tired Dexter coach Margaret Veazie. "Now they can relax and go play. Win or lose, we're still in the state championship again."
Ashley Ames, the 6-foot-4 Tiger junior, paced Dexter with 23 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. She had a key basket off a rebound late as the Tigers were trying to extend a slim lead.
Dexter had to overcome the stellar play of junior guard Jenny Rollins, who had a season-high 30 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists.
Central hadn't had any luck against Dexter in the regular season, losing once by 15 points and again by 37. The Red Devils weren't alone - no team had been able to solve the Tigers, who had an average margin of victory of about 48 points. So when Central tied it late, there was a bit of worry. "I kept thinking of last year [EM title game against Calais] when it was close at the end," said senior guard Brittany Veazie, who had four assists and four steals. "We just had to stay with it and eventually we would prevail, and we did."
But not before some tense moments. The Tigers started the fourth quarter with a 44-38 lead, but Rollins and Teresa Libby of Central each scored to make it 44-42. Dexter's Sabrina Cote knocked down a jump shot, but Libby responded for the Devils and Traci Underhill hit two free throws to tie the game at 46-46 with 4:54 left.
Dexter regained the lead, but Rollins made a free throw to tie it up again with 2:49 left. But that was all for the Devils as the Tigers went into a spread offense. It was daughter Brittany's idea, Margaret Veazie said, to slow things down against Central's zone.
"I knew that they were just going to sit in their zone and we weren't being real effective on offense, so once we got the lead, there wasn't enough time left that we needed to score," Brittany Veazie said. "Holding the ball, we just had to protect it."
The Devils resorted to fouling and the Tigers responded with an 8-for-9 effort from the line in the fourth.
Ames took care of the one fourth quarter miss. Playing with four fouls, she rebounded the ball in the lane and put it into the hoop for a 54-48 lead with 1:08 remaining.
"I didn't know if I was supposed to kick it back out, but I was wide open," Ames said. "I was hesitant with everything because I didn't want my fifth foul and have to come out. It was a great game to play in."
Cote had a breakout game with 20 points, including 8-of-12 from the field. Her play became key as the Tigers were having some trouble getting the ball inside to the Ames sisters.
"That was the adjustment at halftime. We were going to keep Mallory and Ashley moving and bring Sabrina down and cut her to the middle because she's so tough one-on-one," Margaret Veazie said. Rollins was 10-for-20 from the field, made two of her three 3-point attempts and knocked down eight of her 11 free-throws. She scored six points in the second quarter as the Red Devils took a 21-19 lead thanks to a Casey Davis jumper. But the Tigers went on a 13-0 run to regain the advantage.
Freshman Mallory Ames, Ashley's 6-6 sister, had eight rebounds and two blocks. After the final buzzer sounded, Rollins and the Red Devils seemed just as excited as the Tigers. Central's 48 points were the most Dexter allowed all season, and the Tigers' 58 represented only the fourth time this year the champs have been held under 59 points in a game.
The Red Devils played a 2-1-2 zone with the middle player double-teaming whichever Ames sister had the ball. "It worked for a while and it was a close game, but they made foul shots in the end," said Rollins, the daughter of coach Diane Rollins. "We're just very proud of how we played."
Libby came off the bench and added six rebounds and six points.
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