A good bench is key to any strong run in the tournament. Two girls teams that emerged with Eastern Maine titles on Saturday went to their benches early and it paid off.
Coaches looked to backups Shaina Watananuchit of Presque Isle and Chelsea Chambers of Dexter when starters got into foul trouble, and both girls more than held their own.
The Wildcats needed Watananuchit when PI senior point guard Katie Delong picked up her fourth foul with 3:07 left in the third quarter in a game that John Bapst led 27-23.
The junior guard didn't score any points, and missed her only two field goal attempts of the game, but with Watananuchit on the floor Presque Isle rallied to cut Bapst's lead to 31-30.
Delong came back with 3:24 left in the game and hit what turned out to be the winning 3-point shot.
Watananuchit's play was critical to keeping PI's press going.
"Shaina just kept it up," Wildcats coach Jeff Hudson said. "She did a good job on defense and on offense she passes to the right person, and that was key with Katie on the bench."
Watananuchit, who had to defend Crusader guards Chere Wickstrom and Ashley Freeman, said she was ready if needed.
"I wasn't really nervous, but I knew I had come off strong from the bench," she said. "I knew if I had confidence and put my mind to it I could play."
Dexter's Chambers, meanwhile, knew she would likely be called upon. She was subbing in for 6-6 center Mallory Ames, who started all three tourney games on a bad right ankle.
"I realized that I had to step up," Chambers said. "As much as everybody wanted Mallory to be out there, we realized that we all had to step up and take that responsibility."
Chambers played extensive minutes all tourney, especially in the semifinal and regional final as Ames hurt her ankle and got into foul trouble.
The 5-10 junior had played earlier in the game, going in for guard Tracy Mountain, but re-entered the game at big moment. Ames picked up her fourth foul with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter of a 35-35 game.
With Chambers in the game, Dexter gained the lead for good. She finished with four points and three rebounds.
Senior forward Sabrina Cote was confident Chambers could handle the pressure.
"I've always known that Chelsea is a great player," Cote said. "She has a great attitude, she always hustles to the ball, she does everything we could ask for her."
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