SULLIVAN — After years at the bottom of Class C, the Sumner girls’ basketball team is in the midst of a resurgence.
Following an 0-18 season in 2019-20, the Tigers turned a bit of a corner a year ago. Not only did Sumner snap a winless streak of nearly two years, but the team would go on to post a 5-8 record and finish as the runner-up in the Penobscot Valley Conference Coastal pod.
There were, then, expectations this winter with much of what was a young team that won those five games a year ago back for Sumner. Although the Tigers started 0-4, they’ve recently started to meet some of those expectations with five wins in their past six games.
“This is the first year in about 10 years that the Sumner girls have been competitive in terms of being right there with those other teams,” head coach Andrea Alley said. “On any given night, depending on how we play, we can roll with anyone. We just really key on our defense, force the outside shot and don’t let them have the inside shot.”
The latest in a string of key victories for Sumner came Saturday as the Tigers beat Woodland 55-40 in a matchup of two evenly matched teams in Sullivan. That victory, which came less than 24 hours after a 57-32 win over Shead, propelled Sumner to .500 on the season with eight games remaining until tourney time.
Visiting Woodland (3-6) started the game off strong as it led Sumner the entire first quarter, during which it held a 16-10 advantage with just over a minute to go. Yet the Tigers would outscore the Dragons 6-2 over that final minute before using a 16-4 run late in the half to take a 32-24 lead into the locker room.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter with neither side scoring in the final 3 minutes, 45 seconds of the period. Yet Sumner (5-5) entered the fourth leading 37-31, and the Tigers, led by 14 points from Rachel Colby, outscored Woodland 18-9 the rest of the way to secure a major win in the Class C North standings.
“We had been trying to slow the game down a little and take some time off the clock, but I said to them that we had to get down the floor and start scoring,” Alley said. “Rachel Colby is really good at getting the drive and getting most of them to fall, and if not, Bri [Flaherty] or Mia [Richardson] are on the other side and ready to put it back up.”
Colby finished with a game-high 28 points for Sumner in the win. Flaherty added 14 points, seven of which came in the second quarter, for the Tigers, and Richardson added 10 points. The Tigers also got three points from freshman Callie Chase.
Elsewhere Saturday, the Mount Desert Island girls’ team claimed a 55-31 win over Winslow in Bar Harbor. The game was the second of a five-game home stand for the Trojans, who began that stretch two nights earlier with a 43-42 win over Houlton.
Against Houlton, MDI led 41-37 with 1:55 remaining before the Shiretowners went on a 5-0 run to take a one-point lead just inside the final minute. Yet the Trojans escaped with the narrowest of wins after Leah Carroll scored what would be the winning basket with 38 seconds left.
Elizabeth Jones led the way in scoring with 14 points for MDI and added four rebounds. The Trojans also got notable contributions from Emily Carter (eight points and three rebounds), Olivia Gray (seven points, seven rebounds and five assists), Carroll (six points, four assists and two steals) and Mollie Gray (four points and 11 rebounds).
“[Pulling out a close win like that] is something that’s only going to help us in the long run,” MDI head coach Brent Barker said. “If you’re going to be a tournament-caliber team and a team that wins some games at the Cross Insurance Center, you’ve got to know how to handle those games and win them down the stretch.”
MDI (8-3) then made it two wins in a row with a 55-31 victory in Saturday’s game against Winslow. The Trojans got 13 points apiece from Jones and Mollie Gray as well as seven points from Olivia Gray, five each from Carter and Grace Witham, three each from Carroll and Sophia Brophy and two each from Elena Alderman, Soren Hopkins-Goff and Lexi Tozier.
MDI will play two tough home games in the coming days when it hosts first-place Old Town (10-1) at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, and second-place Hermon at that time Tuesday, Jan. 25. The Trojans will then host Caribou at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28, before playing on the road against Presque Isle at 4:30 p.m. the following day, Jan. 29.
Sumner will look to move over the .500 mark when it hosts George Stevens Academy at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, and Searsport at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. The Tigers will then play on the road against Calais at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve definitely got to get our boxing out and our turnovers under control and not miss so many layups,” Alley said. “If we can do that and get our defense a little tighter, I think that’ll put us in good shape for the last stretch of the season.”