AUGUSTA—There are many underdog stories in the history of time, but in most of those stories, the underdog wins.
In a select few, the underdog doesn’t secure the victory, but ends up a winner in the eyes of many, like the original ‘Rocky’ movie, when Rocky lost a split decision to Apollo Creed, or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin passing out from pain in an “I Quit Match” against Bret “The Hitman” Hart in WrestleMania XIII.
The 2011-12 Waynflete girls basketball team can now be added to that prestigious list, as the seventh-seeded Flyers fell to No. 1 Hall-Dale Saturday night in the Western Class C Final at the Augusta Civic Center, 43-36.
“It’s tough coming this far and losing in this atmosphere,” said Waynflete star Martha Veroneau, who finished the game with 16 points and nine rebounds. “There is nothing to put our heads down about. In a way, we did win. We knocked out two really good teams in Boothbay and Madison, and nobody thought, including us, that we would go this far. We lost players to injury, we could have given up, but we fought through it. This was a victory for us.”
Veroneau was named the winner of the Robin Colcord Award (as the regional tournament’s MVP), but her points on Saturday night weren’t as plentiful or as easy to come by as they were against Boothbay on Thursday.
Hall-Dale’s Carylanne Wolfington drew the defensive assignment on Veroneau and the two stars impressed with their hard work and defense on each other. Wolfington finished with 16 points as well, matching Veroneau’s game total. Both stars scored the majority of their points in the second half (they combined for just five points in the first half) and they both did a great job of wearing the other out with maximum effort on both ends of the court.
“Martha, it took her awhile to get going,” said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “We knew she’d come around. I think she tweaked her ankle early on. I think they sort of canceled each other out for a while, but we lost Wolfington a couple of times and that killed us. We lost her on an out of bounds play where she got a 3-pointer late, then on a box-out on a free throw (in the last minute) where she got the rebound and the putback. That was the difference in the game.”
Freshman Helen Gray-Bauer opened the game with a great version of the national anthem played on her viola. While Veroneau and Wolfington stalemated, Gray-Bauer continued the sweet music, going off for four points in the first half while playing solid defense. Sophomore Leigh Fernandez hit three 3-pointers in the first half (she finished with nine points for the game), that kept Waynflete in the game while the Flyers waited for Veroneau to find her stroke.
Even with Veroneau held to two points in the first half and with junior Rhiannan Jackson held scoreless due to foul trouble, Louise Lyall added her only two points of the game and Waynflete led for much of the first half, before finding itself only down by one point at halftime, 19-18.
“For a sophomore, (Leigh) was huge,” said Salway. “When she filled in for Martha earlier this year at the point, it was hard for year, but it made her a better player and that showed here in the tournament. With Helen, I asked her before the game if she was nervous to play the anthem, and she replied ‘should I?’ She’s a great competitor, came a long ways during the season, and was very scrappy for us.”
Veroneau found her sea legs in the second half, and the Flyers needed it. She had 14 points in the second half, and seemed to be in the middle of every scrum for the ball. She hit her final shot with 3:42 to play, making the score Hall-Dale 37 Waynflete 36.
No one then scored for over three minutes and the Flyers had their chances to take the lead, including a Jackson 3-point attempt that traveled every inch of the inside of the rim, but refused to fall through.
With 32.2 seconds left, Wolfington rebounded a missed free throw, put it back in for two and the Waynflete carriage finally turned back into a pumpkin.
Still, with Veroneau’s Colcord Award in hand, the team walked to their faithful, with smiles on their faces and cheers from their fans and family. With Hall-Dale getting congratulatory cheers from its fans at the same time, it was tough to tell who won the game.
Even though the future is bright, two seniors won’t be returning next year. Guard Hanae Miyake, who played key minutes in the win against Boothbay and Suzy Moore, whose season was cut short due to injury, won’t be putting on the green next year for Waynflete.
Both Veroneau and Salway sang their praises.
“Suzy and Hanae have both been committed members of the team,” said Salway. “They were pretty emotional in the locker room, (talking about) what it meant to be part of the team and the program. They said it was like a family. We’re going to miss them and they’re going to miss us.”
“Suzy and Hanae have come so far,” said Veroneau. “I’ve found a lot of pleasure being on the team with them, and we’re going to miss them and their leadership. That’s the sad part about today.”
The team was 5-7 at one point this season, with injuries following injuries.
“I felt like there was a black cloud following us for a while,” said Salway. “We’d get an injury, someone would come back, and we’d get another injury. The good part of that was the experience players got this year that will help them next year.”
Julianna Harwood, the five- foot-seven freshman forward, finished the game with four rebounds, and gained a lot of experience in the tournament. Gray-Bauer is also only a freshman, and with the sophomore Fernandez returning, a healthy Catherine Veroneau joining her sister, Martha, for her senior year, Waynflete has a chance to be really special.
Martha Veroneau, after receiving her award, took it and went up and down the bench, high-fiving her teammates and saying, “next year!”
“I reminded them in the locker room that they don’t automatically get back to this point next year just because they got here this season,” said Salway. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. This isn’t easy.”
If the attitude of his team was any indication, they were already motivated to get started.
“It’s a very motivated locker room right now,” said Veroneau. “I think everyone is excited about what we did this year, and is even more excited about next year.”
Salway’s team reflected his personality throughout the tournament: hard-working, but relaxed and patient. Veroneau was quick to credit him with the team’s success.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” said Veroneau. “He keeps everyone on the same page. He doesn’t yell at us, he’s just the best. He’s the reason we went so far in this tournament and he’s the reason we’ll continue to go this far in the future.”
Waynflete’s sensational junior, Martha Veroneau, drives past a Hall-Dale defender. While Veroneau couldn’t come close to her record-setting 47-point production from the semifinals, she was still named the Robin Colcord Award winner at the regional tournament’s MVP.bWaynflete junior Rhiannan Jackson tries to get a step on a Hall-Dale defender. The unheralded Jackson put on a show all week in Augusta.Waynflete freshman Helen Gray-Bauer goes up for a shot in the paint. Gray-Bauer impressed in the pregame as well with another stirring rendition of the national anthem on her viola.
Waynflete freshman Julianna Harwood dives for a loose ball during Saturday night’s Western C Final against Hall-Dale. The Flyers had to win a preliminary round playoff game simply to make it to Augusta and won twice there before their run ended with a 43-36 loss to the Bulldogs.
More photos below.