Raider girls finish on right track, now face Hawks in playoffs
By Wayne E. Rivet
FRYEBURG — Mackenzie Buzzell made her final Wadsworth Arena basketball game a strong one.
On Senior Night, Buzzell stole the limelight, scoring a game-high 20 points to lead Fryeburg Academy to a 44-39 victory over Cape Elizabeth.
The victory evened the Raiders’ record at 9-9 and gives them a little momentum heading into their Class A quarterfinal playoff game Monday night against fourth-ranked Marshwood (14-4).
“We played pretty well. Cape really improved from the start of the season. They beat a very good Falmouth team the game prior to our game,” FA Coach Sean Watson said. “Our kids did a nice job of handling the emotions of Senior Night. It was game throughout and the kids handled the pressure extremely well. Yes, Mackenzie did play well. But she has played well all season. She doesn't do a little bit of everything, she does a whole lot of everything.”
FA held a slim 12-11 lead over the Capers (1-17) and were tied 22-22 at the half. FA finally carved out a little breathing room in the third quarter with a 12-7 run.
Ali Fraize netted 9 points, while Kaylee Emery had 6, Kaylin Delaney 4, Allysa Allen 3 and Nicole Bennett 2.
“Those seniors are a great bunch. It is a great collection of kids. We have some seniors that have started since their freshmen year. Some have played on the varsity since their sophomore year. Some have just started getting varsity minutes this year. I am really happy how they have all pulled in the same direction this year,” Coach Watson said. “I have always felt that some of these seniors have been a bit overlooked during their careers. They have a special toughness and grit about them that is hard to describe. I love coaching them. I’m really hoping their post-season experience will be a good one.”
Class A South Quarterfinal: The fifth-seeded Raiders take on the fourth-ranked Marshwood Hawks on Monday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Portland Expo.
Marshwood is 3-2 over its final five games. The Hawks beat the Raiders in Game 5 of the season by pulling away with an 11-5 fourth quarter run en route to a 39-31 victory to improve to 5-0.
Ten players scored for the Hawks, while Mackenzie Buzzell was high scorer for the Raiders with 16 points.
“I like any match-up where we avoid a prelim! In all seriousness, if we defend the way we can and get some transition baskets, I believe we can play with just about anyone,” Coach Watson said. “We played them the last game before winter break. It seems like a long time ago. I guess playing them earlier takes some of the surprise out of the game, but nowadays most coaches willingly share video with each other so each staff should have at least a little idea of what the other team likes to do. We have some video of Marshwood and I’m sure Coach Freeman has video of us.”
Coach Watson feels it will be important for the Raiders to limit halfcourt turnovers.
“We can afford turnovers on kick-aheads in transition. It is important for us to be aggressive with the ball in transition. If we kick it ahead and throw it too long, the ball goes out of bounds and we can set up our defense. When you turn it over in the half-court that creates fast breaks for the opposition. We want to avoid that if we can,” Coach Watson said. “We will need to rebound from all five spots. We need to continue to have good ball movement and good player movement on the offensive end.”
The coach also believes his Raiders need to end defensive stops with a secured rebound and good outlet passes.
“We want to be aggressive and get the ball to rim. In an 18-game regular season, we went to the line 345 times. That’s just over 19 times a game,” he said. “If you get to the line that many times a game, your kids are being aggressive with the ball.”
There is one question mark for the Raiders — whether senior forward Makayla Cooper will be available. Cooper suffered a concussion on a collision under the basket in the final minutes of the Lake Region game. She was out for the Cape game, and her status for Monday is still unclear.
“We are still waiting for Makayla to be cleared through the concussion protocol. We hope she will be ready for Monday,” Coach Watson said. “We also have several other players that are not at 100%, but all those kids are tough as nails. They will all give their best effort, I am sure.”