GUILFORD—Every team has a player they would prefer to have the ball late in the game. For the Piscataquis community high school (PCHS) Pirates that player is Delani Bennett.
Bennett scored four points in the final 49 seconds, including the game winning basket with 2.7 seconds remaining to lift the Pirates to a 28-26 victory over George Stevens on Thursday evening.
Bennett followed her own missed shot and put it back in for the game winner. The 6’3’ center finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks.
“She (Bennett) is the one that we need to go to at the end. When the chips are down and we need a basket, get it in to the big girl who can be dominant,”PCHS coach Brian Gaw said. “Let her do what she can do. She got it up on the rim and followed her shot and got the second one in.”
Bennett added, “I just knew I shot it and missed it, got the rebound, shot it, and made it. It was the right time to finally make one.”
The Eagles did a good job defensively against Bennett until the final minute. Morgan Dauk, Megan Nowland, and a few others were able to limit Bennett for the first 31 minutes.
“I have to give George Stevens a lot of credit. They had a great game plan, fronting and backing Delani,”Gaw said. “Other teams have tried to do it, they (George Stevens) were a lot more successful at it. They are very athletic.”
Both teams struggled offensively. Alex Speed made two free throws late in the first quarter to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead after the first eight minutes. Dauk nailed a three pointer well past the three point line right before the halftime buzzer to give the Eagles an 11-10 lead going into halftime.
George Stevens was coming off a win against Sumner where they made seven three pointers. Dauk led the way in the win over Sumner with 29 points.
“We knew they were going to come out shooting. In there last game, they made seven three pointers,”Alex Speed said. “We knew they could shoot and we knew what Dauk was capable of, so we tried to shut her down.”
The second half started with Nowland making a three pointer, to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead. Erin Speed took a pass from her sister Alex and made a three pointer that capped a 5-0 Pirates run as they took a 15-14 lead with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter. Doak made a free throw to even the score at 15, heading into the final quarter.
Erin Speed made two free throws to give the Pirates a 17-15 lead. George Stevens went on an 11-2 run to take a 26-19 lead. The Pirates turned up their defense and scored nine points in the final 2:07 to escape with their ninth straight victory.
Erin Speed made a three pointer and Alex Speed made a layup to set up the dramatics from Bennett. The game tying basket came when Bennett hit a shot with 49 seconds remaining. The Pirates played strong defense to force a five second violation, to set up the game winner from Bennett.
“We are not ready to lose. We don’t want to lose and we are not ready to lose,”Bennett said. “We stepped up.”
Alex Speed added “It shows that we can come together and pull it out at the end.”
The Pirates have struggled shooting the ball the last two games. They have played strong defensive games and made key baskets to get wins over Penobscot Valley high school on Tuesday evening and George Stevens on Thursday.
“We haven’t shot the ball well the last couple of games. Shooting is streaky, It will come around, I am not worried about it. That is why we kept shooting it, ”Gaw said. “We have played two very good defensive teams, that have not scored much against us, we just clawed it out, just guts.”
Alex Speed led the Pirates with 12 points, six steals, three rebounds, and two assists. Erin Speed recorded eight points and five rebounds. PCHS (9-2) will next play on Thursday, January 15th when they host Penquis.
Dauk recorded 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and one block to lead the Eagles. Hannah Gutow added seven points, three rebounds, and two assists. Nowland chipped in with three points, nine rebounds, and three assists. Katrina Limeburner finished with two points, four rebounds, and two steals. Alice Dillion recorded nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals. George Stevens (5-5) will next play on Thursday, January 15th when they are scheduled to play at Orono.