‘We grew up a little tonight’ — Raider girls hold off late Poland rally

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LEXI L'HEUREUX-CARLAND of Fryeburg Academy attempts a shot between two Poland defenders during first half action at Wadsworth Arena. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — One couldn’t blame Sean Watson for getting a little nervous.

The Fryeburg Academy varsity girls’ basketball coach has seen the script before — his Raiders build up a nice lead against a quality opponent, only to see his club struggle to score in big moments and lose the game.

Fryeburg built a nine-point lead against visiting Poland Saturday afternoon, but saw the cushion dwindle to 35-33 with 6:18 left in the game.

Rather than fold, the Raiders took charge. Six straight foul shots and a pull-up jumper in the lane by senior Skye Dole answered the Knights’ challenge as Fryeburg captured a 55-41 victory.

“We grew up a little bit tonight. It’s a quality win against a quality team. They cut our lead to two, but our kids showed some resilience. They didn’t get rattled. I don’t know that we would have had a similar outcome last year. It’s a good team win,” said Fryeburg Coach Sean Watson, whose club won its second straight game after a 0-3 start. The Raiders are ranked eighth in the current Class B West Heal Ratings.

Before Saturday’s double-dip, a special ceremony was held at Wadsworth Arena with the surprise unveiling of a new scorer’s table in memory of Gregg Sanborn, 47, who died in February after a battle with cancer. A former FA athlete and a Maine Game Warden for 23 years, Gregg epitomized the term “team player,” willing to do whatever it took to make the team better. After the new table was unveiled by FA Coaches Watson and Sedge Saunders, along with current Raider hoopsters Jaquan Causer and Sydney Charles, Gregg’s mother — Blanche — re-emphasized the importance that every player on a roster is vital to a team’s success, not just the Starting Five.

Coach Watson couldn’t agree more.

“I knew Greg. His mom was my third grade teacher,” he said. “We talked in the locker room about what was said during the ceremony. Even though there were kids that didn’t get (playing) minutes tonight, they contributed to this win. They work hard in practice and push the other kids. Even during our timeouts, we talked about getting team points. It wasn’t about who scores. It worked out well for us.”

Watson hoped his Raiders could seize their advantage in the lane. Dole made her presence felt with nine points and 17 rebounds. Due to some foul trouble, Watson went to his bench and freshman Nicole Bennett made the most of her chance in prime time. She hauled down a couple of rebounds and was relentless inside, scoring eight points — six of them in the third quarter.

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SARAH WELCH of Fryeburg Academy looks for some operating room along the baseline against Poland.

“After playing several JV minutes, she really gave us a boost offensively and defensively. She played well beyond her years. She fit right in with the rest of the group. She doesn’t have any fear, which we noticed during summer basketball,” Coach Watson said. “Coach L’Heureux suggested we give Nicole a try. It was a real good call.”

Fryeburg took an early 9-7 lead as Julia Quinn nailed a three-pointer, Charles converted a lay-up and Lexi L’Heureux-Carland scored four points.

The Raiders opened the lead to 18-11 on hustle plays as McKenna Gerchman came down with an offensive rebound and scored. With the Knights attempting to clog the lane, Raiders Charles and Quinn each had open looks at treys and each buried jumpers to push the FA lead to 21-13.

Fryeburg led 22-16 at the half.

The Raiders increased the lead to eight entering the final quarter with a 5-of-6 effort at the foul line, Bennett’s six points and another jumper by Charles with 51.2 seconds left.

Poland (4-2) would make it interesting. The Knights scored the first six points of the fourth to trail by just a bucket.

“Experienced teams are always going to make a run. We need to limit those runs to six points and not 12. Let’s try to answer with a good defensive possession and then try to get points at the other end. Good shots and not allow scoring droughts to last too long,” Coach Watson said. “We’ve had that happened this year, and it wasn’t because of good defense we were facing.”

Fryeburg stayed aggressive, attacking the inside. They were rewarded with 18 trips to the foul line in the fourth — and they made it count, sinking 16 to close out the Knights.

“I still don’t think we were patient enough trying to get the ball inside as much as we would like,” Coach Watson said.

He was, however, was impressed with the overall effort of his squad. Coach Watson praised the defensive work turned in by Sarah Welch and Mackenzie Buzzell, who earned the assignment of guarding Poland’s leading scorer, Michaella Arsenault, who netted 12 points. Guard Emily Bolduc led the Knights with 14 points.

“Despite her injury, Sarah showed some real guts trying to deny the Arsenault girl. Regardless of how many points she scored, she really had to work for them,” Coach Watson said.

With a quality win in their pocket, Coach Watson hopes his Raiders are starting to understand just what it takes to beat other playoff contending teams.

“Deep down, the kids believe they can compete. Sometimes, you worry about all the external stuff — bad call, turnover or bad pass. Then, how does it affect the next plays,” he said. “We need to block everything out and focus on what needs to be done ‘right now’ to make the team better. We did that down the stretch tonight. There was no finger-pointing. We showed some pretty good chemistry. And, I hope it continues.”

For the Raiders, Julia Quinn was high scorer with 16 points. Other scorers included L’Heureux-Carland 8, Charles 7, Gerchman 4, Buzzell 2 and Welch 1.

Stat lines: Fryeburg had 17 turnovers to Poland’s 14…Three officials worked the game. FA was 25-of-30 from the foul line, Poland 14-of-22.

 

 

 

 

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