Raider defense secures playoff home court game against Capers

JULIA QUINN played tight defense against the Capers and netted 13 points for the Raiders. (Rivet Photo)

JULIA QUINN played tight defense against the Capers and netted 13 points for the Raiders. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Mackenzie Buzzell always draws the toughest defensive assignment so, at times, her offense suffers a bit.

Fryeburg Academy Coach Sean Watson doesn’t mind.

“It is brutal the things we ask her to do on defense, doing it 30 to 32 minutes of the game,” the coach said. “I told her, whatever you can give us on offense is fantastic. She’s a great offensive player.”

Buzzell faced a tough assignment in the season finale, having to try to slow down Cape Elizabeth’s athletic scorer Montana Braxton.

While Braxton did pour in a game-high 23 points, Buzzell “made her work for every points she got,” Coach Watson said.

And, the sophomore guard made a very big impact on the offensive end, sinking 3-of-4 foul shots in the closing minute, and finished with a team-high 16 points as the Raiders (9-9) pulled out a 48-40 victory at Wadsworth Arena.

The win secured a home playoff game yesterday against those same Capers (9-9).

“I think we were emotionally ready for this game. We played with pretty good focus, and that hasn’t always happened this season. I couldn’t be happier,” Coach Watson said.

Watson expected Braxton to “get her points,” but he hoped to slow down the outside shooting of Hannah Sawyer. To do that, Buzzell was matched up 1-on-1 against Braxton with sporadic help. Meanwhile, FA guards Sage Boivin, McKenna Gerchman and Katherine Parker kept Sawyer in check, allowing the 3-point sharpshooter to score just 4 points — no treys.

“I was a little worried about their ability to hit the outside shot, so we stuck with their shooters. Sage, McKenna and Katherine did a fantastic job of denying Hannah Sawyer the basketball. They were frustrated,” Coach Watson said. “Cape does a pretty good job of spreading out their offense, which makes it difficult to help out with (Montana) Braxton. The idea was to try to keep her from getting all the way to the rim and have her take pull up shots. Mackenzie (Buzzell) made her work for every point she got, and when Mackenzie was in foul trouble, Julia (Quinn) did a nice job, as did Kaylin Delaney who gave up several inches yet held her own.”

Fryeburg took a 10-8 lead in the first quarter, sporting a balanced attack with Nicole Bennett (7 points) and Lexi L’Heureux-Carland (5) scoring inside, and Boivin (4 points) sinking a jumper at period’s end.

Braxton kept Cape close in the second quarter, scoring 11 of her team’s 13 points. She hit a trey, drove to the hoop and was 4-of-4 from the foul line.

Yet, the Raiders answered as Bennett and Buzzell each netted 3-pointers. FA’s defense forced two big turnovers in the final minute leading to two Julia Quinn (13 points) layups for a 27-21 halftime lead.

While Cape struggled to find offense other than Braxton shooting the ball, the Raiders continued to show great balance and patience, seeking out good shot opportunities. When the opening appeared, Quinn and Delaney knocked down 3-pointers.

And, there was the all-out hustle by Buzzell, who picked off a rebound off her own miss, and created a foul shot chance. She sank both free throws, to put the Raiders up 37-26 entering the fourth quarter.

“I thought we did a better job crashing the boards as a team in the second half. We gave up fewer second shot opportunities,” Coach Watson said.

Whenever Cape made a run at the Raiders, Fryeburg answered the challenge with Buzzell leading the way, including a nifty drive to the rim for a score that put FA up 41-32 with 3:49 left.

“Mackenzie has come alive offensively over the last two or three games. Those were big shots and free throws she made down the stretch,” Coach Watson added. “We’ve done a better job during the second half of the season answering those spurts by the other team.”

Now, can the Raiders do it again?

“It’s going to be difficult. It’s all about what we do on the defensive end. We need to limit their scorers,” said Coach Watson regarding the rematch yesterday (full coverage in next week’s edition). “Chris Casterella — Cape’s head coach — is probably the hardest working coach in the conference. I don’t get a chance to scout much because of where we are, but when I do, it is either Chris or her husband at games scouting. Those (Cape) kids are always well-prepared. It’s going to be a battle, which is the way it should be in the playoffs.”

Watson doesn’t expect his club to take the Capers lightly in wake of their victory last week.

“Our girls appreciate the quality that Cape brings to the floor, so I don’t think it will be an issue of us being overconfident — not at a playoff time,” he said. “We were happy getting there last year, but we have bigger aspirations this time around.”

The winner of yesterday’s prelim game advances to the Class B West quarterfinals at the Portland Expo this Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 8:30 p.m. against top-ranked Spruce Mountain (18-0).

The winner advances to the semis on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of the York/Lincoln Academy game.

 UPDATE: The Raiders fell to the Capers Wednesday night in the Class B West preliminary tourney game at Wadsworth Arena. Full game coverage in the next edition.

Please follow and like us: