Raider girls finish on a winning note, edge Poland behind Dole’s 26 points

SKYE DOLE finished the regular season on a night note by blocking a late shot, scoring 26 points and hauling down 17 rebounds in a win over Poland. (Rivet Photo)

SKYE DOLE finished the regular season on a night note by blocking a late shot, scoring 26 points and hauling down 17 rebounds in a win over Poland. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Skye Dole set the tone early, and made big plays down the stretch to close out the basketball season on a high note.

Fryeburg Academy’s junior center scored a game-high 26 points, hauled down 17 rebounds and blocked a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds as the Raiders nipped Poland 57-55 in the season finale.

Dole scored the Raiders’ first nine points, but the Knights enjoyed a seven-point lead after one quarter.

“Poland really gave us fits early in the season with their dribble penetration. We decided to start the game with a 2-3 zone to try to limit that penetration and then alternate back and forth between a 2-3 and half court man depending on the players we had on the court,” FA Coach Sean Watson said. “Poland hit some perimeter shots early against our zone. We did a much better job of finding and defending their shooters in the middle periods.”

In the second quarter, Dole scored seven points and the Raiders rallied with a 15-9 run on buckets by Sydney Charles, Kendra Fox (playing in her final game) and a couple of hoops from Lexi L’Heureux-Carland.

Down 25-24 at the half, the Raiders took the lead in the third quarter behind senior Ellen Bacchiochhi and freshman Julia Quinn, who both hit big three pointers.

“Ellen had a huge three pointer for us in the third quarter that really ignited the crowd and our team. It was her first three of the year,” Coach Watson said. “It was great to see that from a senior playing in her last game. I hope she’ll remember that three pointer. With a final margin of two points, it was a clutch basket and a huge momentum boost. She’s done every thing we’ve asked of her this year. She’s started, come of the bench, played four different positions and never once been anything but a ‘team first’ captain.”

Free throws were really the difference in the fourth quarter. The Raiders were 10-of-14 from the line (Dole 4-for-4, L’Heureux-Carland 2-for-2, Quinn 3-for-6, and Fox 1-for-2).

“The fourth quarter was a struggle as Poland really broke down our man defense with dribble penetration and dumping the ball off to (Kayla) Yirrell in the post. She had six points in the quarter,” Coach Watson said.

In a season of ups and downs, the Raiders closed out the final eight minutes with plenty of excitement.

Down three points with 3:30 to play, Dole connected to cut the Knights’ lead to 49-48. On Poland’s next possession, Sarah Welch stole the ball and then assisted Quinn on an acrobatic left-handed lay-up with lots of contact and a no call as the Raiders took the lead 50-49 with 3:04 left.

“The Dole basket, Welch steal and assist and the Quinn lay-up may have been the most exciting sequence of events for the season,” Coach Watson said.

With the Raiders up five points, the Knights rallied. Poland’s Emily Bolduc (21 points) hit a three pointer with 1:25 left to cut the margin to two. The Knights had a chance to even the score after the Raiders turned the ball over with 43 seconds left and were whistled for a foul. After the Poland shooter sank the first foul shot, Watson called a timeout. It was a good one as the Poland player missed the second free throw. Dole grabbed her 16th rebound of the game.

Kendra Fox was fouled and made one of two free throws to extend the margin to 57-55.

Poland (6-12, ranked 14th) had one more shot to tie the game in the final seconds, but a driving along the left side resulted in a Dole blocked shot to secure the victory.

“Skye got in a groove early and she was allowed to play a little more one-on-one than what she has seen most of the season,” Coach Watson said.

Dole finished 10-of-17 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line with two assists.

Fox had a clutch effort as a senior playing in her last game. She scored six points, three in the crucial fourth quarter, grabbed three rebounds and had two assists, all while being under the weather.

“Kendra has been an exceptional leader for our team. Like Ellen, it has always been team first. I think Kendra played all five positions for us this year,” Coach Watson said.

Freshman forward L’Heureux-Carland was 4-of-7 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line for 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Quinn, another freshman, had 8 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists.

MAKAYLA FROST will be among key players to return to the Raider line-up next season. (Rivet Photo)

MAKAYLA FROST will be among key players to return to the Raider line-up next season. (Rivet Photo)

Makayla Frost gave the Raiders (4-14, 16th) important minutes off the bench in the second half, while senior Sage Antolin secured a rebound in her first varsity start in her final game.

“While we struggled in the win column, I feel we finished the season in a much better place than where we started the season,” Coach Watson said. “I would have loved for these girls to have experienced the post-season, but it didn’t happen. I couldn’t have asked for a more coachable group of players. They made my year very easy. The seniors, Kendra, Ellen, and Sage were very accepting of everyone and they each put the team’s needs ahead of any individual needs. I can say that about the entire team. When you have 12 quality individuals willing to do that you’re going to have an enjoyable season.”

While the Raiders failed to make the playoffs this year, Coach Watson is hopeful that with a solid nucleus returning next year, FA will be in the hunt for the post-season.

“Looking forward, I see nothing but good things. We’ll bring back a strong nucleus of quality players with an additional year of varsity experience. We’ll have a strong senior class with Skye Dole, Sarah Welch, and Sydney Charles all returning after seeing time as starters this past season. We’ll also have Makayla Frost who played quality minutes and was a high scorer in one of our games this past season. Karylann Walker will round out this year’s juniors who are expected to play as seniors next year. Kristin Chipman, our only sophomore on the team, has really improved defensively and will be expected to contribute next year,” Coach Watson said. “Freshman McKenna Gerchman will be looked upon to contribute to the scoring column next year after a year of seeing action in varsity and junior varsity games. Both Julia Quinn and Lexi L'Heureux-Carland started as freshman and were huge contributors. We also had a very strong JV team this season and several of those players will be competing for varsity spots. I’ll bet summer basketball and off-season preparation will really be telling next November.”

Coach Watson believes the Raiders can close the gap with other playoff teams with a strong effort during the summer.

“I really think and hope they will be hungry for a post-season run next year. We’ll find out how hungry they are during summer basketball. We are loaded with potential, but the off-season will determine whether or not we reach that potential. We can’t expect to show up the Monday before Thanksgiving, throw on some sneakers and compete,” he said. “We also can’t be satisfied with making the team or getting minutes. If we want to succeed, it’s going to take a team commitment and a team effort with a willingness to make individual sacrifices. I really think all of our returning players can do this.”

The season was a learning experience for Watson as well as he discovered what his team’s strengths and weaknesses were. Now, he will tweak the line-up and work on the little things to get the Raiders back to the playoffs.

“Figuring out starters, bench rotations, and minutes is always difficult. Trying to win, trying to put kids in the best positions for them to succeed, and trying to get kids as many minutes as possible is tough,” he said. “With the additional off-season time, I expect we’ll make a lot more adjustments for next year. We’ll mix it up a bit more defensively and we’ll try to be a bit more creative on the offensive end.”

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