Raiders play fast, roll past Poland 60-33 in season opener

Bridget Bailey #25

Bridget Bailey #25

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — For the first time in his Raider coaching career, Sean Watson was finally able to smile after an opening night.

Behind a smothering defense and up-tempo style, Fryeburg Academy hammered Poland 60-33 Tuesday night at Wadsworth Arena. It was Watson’s first victory in a season opener since taking over the girls’ basketball program.

The coach had to like the defensive intensity his squad unleashed in the first quarter, limiting the Knights to just four field goal attempts, while forcing eight turnovers. Solid double teams and tipped passes created multiple fastbreak chances as the Raiders raced out to an 18-6 lead.

“We have some athletes, and our plan is to play faster than everyone we play, try to play tougher and smarter. We had the ‘fast’ down at times, today,” Coach Watson said.

Fryeburg (1-0) took command with a 10-0 run midway through the quarter as senior guard Julia Quinn scored off a baseline drive that resulted in a score plus a foul shot. She then knocked down a 3-pointer for a 9-2 FA lead.

Then, the Raiders turned the final four minutes into a sprint led by Mackenzie Buzzell, who made pinpoint passes for easy layups by Quinn and Lexi L’Heureux-Carland.

“A highlight for me tonight was when they made a free throw, we ran our break and had two kids ahead of them and got an uncontested layup,” Coach Watson said. “If we can do that, get that mentality to sprint ever time offensively and contest every dribble and every pass, it makes a big difference.”

Mackenzie Buzzell #13

Mackenzie Buzzell #13

To keep up a frenetic pace for 32 minutes, a team needs a strong bench. Several players, who saw limited varsity action a year ago, played big minutes for the Raiders Tuesday with solid results at both ends of the court. One player was Bridget Bailey, who scored a team-high 13 points. She showed a nice shooting touch on the baseline, and squared up on the post to take advantage of Poland’s shorter frontline.

“A vast majority of our kids went to every summer session we had, and had two or three kids really take advantage of it. They proved themselves over the summer and are now proving they can play quality varsity minutes,” Coach Watson said. “Some of those kids, who didn’t have a lot of varsity minutes in the past, showed that tonight. Ali Fraize, started for us. Bridget Bailey, at crunch time, gave us big minutes at both ends of the court and was a factor. McKenna Gerchman just really played her tail off. It allows us to mix up our starters and get a spark off the bench.”

Mixing player combinations did create some flow issues, however. The Raiders hit a slight offensive lull in the second quarter, shooting at a 5-for-13 clip. Meanwhile, Poland started to settle into a better offensive rhythm, trimming the deficit to 13 by halftime.

“We’re still getting used to playing with different people. We had some foul trouble and had to sub people in. Sometimes, it makes a difference. It shouldn’t, but I think it did at times,” Coach Watson said. “Tonight, we didn’t have a full rotation because one girl didn’t play due to injury, one had a back injury and practiced only a couple of times, and another who has been out sick for a few days. So, it affected us, but the kids know they just need to be tougher. They have to play through it, no excuses. When they are in the game, they have to play fast, play hard and play smart.”

The Raiders were never threatened in the second half as they dominated the glass at both ends, resulting in many second or third shot opportunities to score. Sage Boivin’s blue-collar effort in the lane resulted in eight offensive rebounds, 10 total boards on the night.

Makayla Cooper #10

Makayla Cooper #10

“We were a bear on the glass tonight. We really dominated. Sage (Boivin) looks like she is going to be our Dennis Rodman, coming off the bench, working hard in the paint to get rebounds,” Coach Watson said.

Although the Raider running game did slow down as the game moved along, FA players continued to drive to the rim rather than settle for outside jumpers. It paid off as Buzzell netted two hoops while Gerchman and Bailey each scored to push the Raider lead to 38-19 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.

Fryeburg closed out the game strong as L’Heureux-Carland, whose floor time was limited due to foul trouble, triggered the 18-7 run with three inside hoops to open the period.

Holding the Knights to a free throw and no field goals over the final 4:16, the Raiders ended the game with a 10-1 surge.

While the coach was thrilled to start the new season 1-0, he realizes the veteran Raiders (who return all players from a year ago) will be a work in progress.

“There are a lot of things that we need to get better at. Offensively, although we move well without the ball, we still need to set better screens and react to them appropriately. We have to work on it every day. It is easier to do in practice than in a game when the intensity picks up. We need to do a better job reading the defense,” he said. “Any good fundamental team moves their feet and doesn’t reach. When we get tired, and it happened a few times tonight, we reach. That’s a habit we need to break.”

Lexi L'Heureux-Carland #15

Lexi L'Heureux-Carland #15

The next challenge is Leavitt, a new opponent on the Raider schedule, this Friday.

“I did get a chance to scout them because we had an opening night bye. They pose some challenges, like trapping which we don’t see a lot of. We have four days to prepare for it. It will be a very good test,” Coach Watson said.

Raider stat sheet

FA scorers: Katherine Parker 1-0-2, Sage Boivin 2-3-7, Mackenzie Buzzell 4-1-9, Lexi L’Heureux-Carland 4-1-9, Alexandria Fraize 1-1-3, Julia Quinn 3-1-8, Bridget Bailey 6-1-13, McKenna Gerchman 3-1-7, Nicole Bennett 1-0-2. 3-pointer: Quinn.

Field goals: FA 25-59 (42%), POL 10-28 (36%)

Free throws: FA 9-15, POL 11-20

Turnovers: FA 14, POL 20

Rebounds: FA 32, POL 14

Individual rebounds: Fraize 5, Gerchman 2, Bailey 3, Quinn 3, Parker 2, Bennett 3, Boivin 10, Buzzell 3, L’Heureux-Carland 1


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