Tiger girls shut down Calais to earn spot in regional final

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BANGOR — The 11th-seeded Calais High School girls basketball team entered the Feb. 23 Class C North semifinal against second seed Dexter averaging 64.8 points per game. Its season low was 48 in a loss to undefeated Houlton on Jan. 10.

But Dexter turned in a smothering defensive performance, limiting the Blue Devils to a 19.4 percent shooting performance en route to a 36-15 victory at the Cross Insurance Center.

The 17-3 Tigers, the defending Class C North champions, moved on to face 20-0 Houlton, last year’s Class B North titlist, in ensuing evening’s regional final.

“That’s the best defensive team I’ve seen all year,” said Calais athletic director Randy Morrison, who was filling in for ailing Blue Devils coach Arnie Clark. “They did a real good job. They took us out of our routine. They’re well-coached.”

Freshman guards Peyton Grant and Avery Herrick paced the Tigers as Grant scored a game-high 16 points with two assists and two rebounds while Herrick contributed 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

“We played great. We prepared well and did what we had to do,” said Herrick. “They had a lot of guards who could shoot and drive so we needed good closeouts and we needed to get the rebounds so they would only get one shot per possession.”

That’s exactly what the Tigers did in their aggressive player-to-player defense.

The Blue Devils (15-6) were held to only 31 shot attempts because Dexter controlled the defensive boards. Dexter outrebounded the smaller Blue Devils 23-17.

“We just tried to make it difficult for them,” said Dexter coach Jody Grant, Peyton’s father. “They have four real good offensive players. They can handle the ball, shoot and drive. You have to defend with five kids and we did a pretty solid job of that.”

The Tigers took a lead they would never relinquish by rattling off six straight points after Calais freshman Sophie McVicar sank a free throw for the game’s first point with 3:29 left in the first quarter.

Herrick drove to the basket and hit a four-footer, Becca Batron put in an offensive rebound and Herrick nailed a six-foot jumper before Calais notched its first basket of the quarter with 17 seconds left on a baseline runner by sophomore Olivia Huckins.

Dexter reeled off seven unanswered points to start the second period to expand the lead to 13-3 as Grant connected on a 3-pointer and then fed Herrick underneath for a pair of baskets.

“I had been practicing posting up. Peyton got me the ball and it worked,” said Herrick.

McVicar’s baseline runner gave Calais with its first points of the quarter just 2:32 before the intermission, but Dexter led 18-7 at halftime.

Grant sewed up the win by scoring the first seven points of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 31-15.

Batron had four points and seven rebounds for Dexter and Kaitlyn Webber did an exceptional job guarding Calais’ Lauren Cook, limiting her to five points and three rebounds after Cook had scored 22 in a quarterfinal win over Narraguagus of Harrington.

Huckins had five points and four rebounds while McVicar finished with eight rebounds and three points.

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
ON TO THE C NORTH CHAMPIONSHIP — Peyton Grant of Dexter tries to keep her balance along the sideline as Calais’ Lauren Cook defends during the Feb. 23 Class C North semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Dexter won 36-15, with Grant scoring a game-high 16 points.

Houlton Pioneer Times photo/Joseph Cyr
RETURN TRIP TO THE REGIONAL FINAL — Dexter’s Katilyn Webber dribbles along the baseline as Calais’ Elizabeth Bitar defends during Friday’s Class C North girls semifinal in Bangor. The Tigers’ 36-15 advanced the team to the regional final for the second year in a row.

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