Vikings net first quarterfinal playoff win in two decadesOgden's 28-point performance sets tone as No. 3 Searsport rolls
Augusta — It had been two decades since the Searsport District High School girls basketball team last won a regional quarterfinal playoff game.
The No. 3 Vikings, who squared off against No. 6 Richmond in a Western Class D quarterfinal playoff game Feb. 17 at the Augusta Civic Center, made that 20-year-old contest really seem like a distant memory with their strong performance Monday morning.
Sophomore guard Melinda Ogden poured in a game-high 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Vikings surged to a convincing 73-53 victory, an outcome that eliminated the Bobcats (8-11).
The Vikings (15-4) will have little time to celebrate their historic win as they will play again on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m. in the semifinals in Augusta against No. 2 Rangeley (18-1), a 69-24 quarterfinal winner over No. 7 Valley of Bingham (9-11).
SDHS did not play the Lakers during the regular season. Richmond advanced to the state final in several recent seasons.
The Viking program last won a preliminary playoff game during the 2000-2001 season, but did not win its quarterfinal playoff game that year. During the 1992-93 season, the Vikings earned an Eastern Class C quarterfinal playoff victory over Central of East Corinth before falling to Calais in the semifinals.
Searsport dropped to Class D this season after decades toiling in Class C.
Searsport coach Mel Grant said Monday’s win “is great for the community and it’s a wonderful win for us.”
“When we started [the game] we had a lot of nerves, and we expected that,” he said. “We’ve had a couple weeks off [and] this is our first experience in a state venue, so-to-speak.”
The team had not played a meaningful game since Feb. 3, the team’s regular-season finale against Bangor Christian. The Vikings lost 62-28 to Schenck of East Millinocket in the Penobscot Valley Conference Class D title game, but gave several of his players the option to play or not.
On Monday morning, Searsport led 16-14 after the first quarter, while the higher seed slowly pulled away as the game wore on, as the Vikings led 37-26 at halftime and 60-41 after three quarters.
In addition to Ogden’s stellar 28-point performance, Alicen Brooks netted 12 points for Searsport, while Briana Grant and Anna Bucklin added 10; Allison Walker, eight; Meghan Grant and Brittany Ward, two; and Karigen Coffin, one.
“It feels really good,” said Ogden of her team’s win. “We just played hard [and] put 100 percent into it. Sometimes things didn’t go our way, but we stuck with it and we pulled out the win.”
“Obviously Melinda came in huge today,” said Grant. “Which she hadn’t been doing, so-to-speak, all year. She’s capable, but every day it’s someone different. It’s either Brooks or Grant or Ogden or Bucklin. Just pick your poison which one you want to guard.”
Morgan Harrington led the Bobcats with 18 points, while Kelsea Anair added 15; Autumn Acord, eight; Camryn Hurley, five; Cassidy Harriman, three; and Haley Murphy and Meranda Martin, two.
Searsport converted 23-of-38 free throws (60 percent) in the win, while Richmond made 7-of-21 (33 percent).
Despite winning the turnover battle — forcing several Bobcat miscues while the lower-seed made several on their own as well which the Vikings turned into quick points — coach Grant was not pleased with his team’s overall defensive effort.
"We really didn’t transition well through it [and] we didn’t play our defense as well as we should have,” he said. “With a couple weeks off we’re a little rusty. We want to score half our points off our defense. We try so many different defenses and there are several more we didn’t show today because I know people are watching us.”
Walker netted two free throws with 5:35 left in the second quarter to give the Vikings a 21-20 lead. The Vikings never trailed again as they went on an 11-0 run thanks to a trey from Ogden, a reverse layup from Ogden off a nifty pass from Grant, a runner from Grant and a jumper from Walker, which put Searsport ahead 30-20 with 3:30 remaining in the half.
The higher seed really started to pull away in the third quarter, as it eventually extended its advantage to 19 points. The Bobcats, on several occasions, cut their deficit to 10 or nine points, but the Vikings had an answer each time, usually in fastbreak fashion off a Richmond turnover.
The Vikings led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
And after getting their first tournament game under their belt, Ogden said she and her teammates are looking forward to the semifinals.
“I’ve never been here,” she said. “It was amazing. I’m glad we got the jitters out. I’m ready for Thursday.”
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. He has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" and iced coffee.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn and sons Beckett and Austin.
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