Gorham junior Mackenzie Holmes, left, junior Courtney Brent, freshman Adele Nadeau and senior Michelle Rowe cheer on their teammates at the conclusion of the Rams’ 63-37 victory over Maine Girls’ Academy in Thursday’s Class AA South quarterfinal.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
G- 17 10 20 16- 63
MGA- 2 10 13 12- 37
G- Holmes 9-3-21, Nadeau 5-2-13, Desjardin 3-2-9, Rowe 2-3-7, Hamilton 2-0-4, Walker 1-1-4, Brent 1-0-2, Michaud 1-0-2, Biamby 0-1-1
MGA- Reid 6-5-19, Fitzpatrick 2-2-6, Joyce 1-2-4, Legassey 1-0-3, Olson 0-2-2, StoreySmith 1-0-2, Mower 0-1-1
G (3) Desjardin, Nadeau, Walker 1
MGA (3) Reid 2, Legassey 1
PORTLAND—Maine Girls’ Academy’s basketball team made nice strides this season, but when the postseason got underway Thursday evening, the Lions had no answer for the squad which has owned the month of February the past two years.
Hosting two-time defending state champion Gorham in a Class AA South quarterfinal, MGA, the No. 4 seed, took the floor hopeful, but in the matter of minutes, the fifth-ranked Rams seized control and in the process, reminded everyone that until further notice, they’re still the team wearing the crown.
A pair of free throws from junior post standout Mackenzie Holmes set the tone and sparked a 15-0 run to start the game.
By the end of the first quarter, Gorham had a 17-2 lead, thanks in large part to seven points from freshman Adele Nadeau, and the Lions were staggered.
MGA settled down in the second period, but the Rams maintained a 15-point advantage, 27-12, heading into the half.
While Lions junior Catherine Reid tried to spark her team, scoring the first four points of the second half to make it an 11-point contest, Holmes simply wouldn’t be denied and her brilliance at both ends of the floor helped Gorham stretch its lead to 47-25 after three quarters.
The Rams slammed the door from there and went on to a 63-37 victory.
Gorham got a double-double (21 points, 17 rebounds) from Holmes and 13 points from Nadeau as it improved to 12-7, ended MGA’s season at 13-6 and in the process, advanced to meet top-ranked South Portland (18-1) in the Class AA South semifinals Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“We’re playing well at the right time,” said Rams coach Laughn Berthiaume. “It’s a tight group and the girls who have been here before know what it means. The younger girls were in the stands last year watching us play. We’re ready.”
“(Gorham) moved the ball well and played good team basketball,” said MGA coach Billy Goodman. “They made their shots and they deserved to win. They played great.”
Gorham won consecutive Class AA championships with an undefeated record, but the graduation of reigning Miss Maine Basketball Emily Esposito, along with other key contributors, brought the Rams back to the pack this winter. Gorham won its first five games this year to stretch its win streak to 47, but went just 6-7 the rest of the way to wind up fifth in the region.
MGA, conversely, had a bounce-back year, winning its first nine games before dropping five of its final nine to finish fourth in Class AA South (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).
One of the Lions’ biggest regular season victories came Jan. 11 in Gorham, 50-41. Sophomore Serena Mower had 13 points and Reid added 12 to negate 18 points from Holmes.
The teams had squared off five previous times in the tournament (see sidebar, below) with the Lions holding a 4-1 edge. Last year, the Rams prevailed, 53-23, in the Class AA South semifinals.
Thursday, Gorham started fast and didn’t look back.
Holmes got the scoring started 71 seconds in with two free throws.
Then, after a steal from Nadeau, freshman Olivia Michaud made a layup.
With 5:29 on the first quarter clock, a corner 3 from Nadeau made it 7-0 and forced Goodman to call timeout.
“It was a little stressful, but my goal was to come out and have fun,” said Nadeau. “It was so important to get out to a good start. We wanted it. We wanted to push the ball in transition and play as a team. I tried not to play scared. I was ready for open shots. We all played well together.”
The timeout didn’t help, as Holmes scored on a putback, Nadeau banked home a shot, Nadeau hit a jumper and with 2:51 to go, a layup after a steal from junior Courtney Brent stretched the lead to 15-0.
The Lions finally broke through with 2:13 left, on a pair of free throws from sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick, but a nice feed from Michaud set up sophomore Jacqui Hamilton for a layup, giving the Rams a commanding 17-2 lead after eight minutes.
In the first period, Gorham got seven points from Nadeau and benefited from seven MGA turnovers.
“We had nerves in the first quarter that I haven’t seen,” Goodman said. “A lot of girls had nerves. Unfortunately it happened. It was just that initial onslaught.”
In the second quarter, the Rams never let the Lions make a run.
Junior Brittany Desjardin opened the frame with a layup after a steal and Nadeau pulled up and hit a jumper for a 21-2 lead.
MGA began to heat up with a 3 from Reid, the team’s first field goal, with 5:29 on the first half clock, but Holmes answered with a left-handed leaner.
After a pair of free throws from sophomore Hope Olson and a jumper from Fitzpatrick, Holmes and senior Michelle Rowe countered with putbacks before Reid closed the half with a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the deficit to 27-12.
In the first half, Holmes had eight points, nine rebounds and blocked three shots, while Nadeau added nine points.
Reid’s six points paced the hosts.
The Lions made some noise to start the second half, getting a runner from Reid in the lane and forcing a turnover before Reid went coast-to-coast for a layup, cutting the deficit to 27-16, but Gorham quickly restored order, as Holmes kept possession alive with an offensive rebound and fed Desjardin for a momentum-altering 3,
Nadeau then put back a rebound with a pretty reverse layup before Desjardin set up Holmes in transition for a layup and Desjardin drove and banked home a shot for a 36-16 lead with 4:41 to go.
After senior Madison Legassey banked in a 3 for the hosts, Mower made a free throw, but Holmes countered with a foul shot, then Holmes scored on a putback to make it 39-20.
Reid set up freshman Madison StoreySmith for a layup, but at the other end, Holmes took a pass from Rowe and made a layup to restore the 19-point advantage.
MGA tried again to make a run, as Reid made a free throw and when she missed the second, Fitzpatrick got the rebound and put it home, but Holmes took a pass from Rowe and again finished with her left hand, Nadeau hit two free throws and as time wound down, Hamilton scored on a putback to make it 47-25.
Reid opened the fourth period with a baseline leaner, but Holmes countered with a nice move and a left-handed leaner.
Reid kept hope alive with a pair of free throws and a runner, but Rowe made a free throw, Desjardin sank a pair, Holmes blocked a shot at one end before setting up Rowe for a layup at the other and then next time down, Brent set up Holmes for a fastbreak layup and a 56-31 lead.
Two free throws from junior Jill Joyce and two more from Reid were countered by a pair of foul shots from Rowe and one apiece from freshman Tatyanna Biamby and junior Sarah Walker.
The Lions’ final points came from Joyce, who made a layup after a feed from Reid, and with 16 seconds to go, Walker hit a 3 to bring the curtain down on Gorham’s 63-37 victory.
“It’s a whole new season now,” Holmes said. “We’ve worked on cleaning up things we’ve needed to work on. We had intensity from the beginning and that helped us. We had a ton of turnovers the first game because of their traps. We’ve worked on getting the ball to the middle, not forcing it to the sideline. We wanted to come out strong and we did a good job. One through 10, we all worked really hard.”
“The like time we played, we only gave up 10 baskets, but we put them on the free throw line way too many times and they turned us over way too many times, so those were the areas we needed to improve on,” Berthiaume said. “I was pleased with our start, but it didn’t feel like a 15-point lead. It’s a long game and they have shooters. Reid was a major concern.”
The Rams got a memorable performance from Holmes, the state’s premier post player, who not only had 21 points, but also grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked five shots.
“Mackenzie didn’t disappoint,” Berthiaume said. “She’s had to help us break presses this year. We’ve gotten better at that.”
Nadeau had a strong performance in her playoff debut, scoring 13 points, collecting four rebounds, dishing out three assists and producing three steals for good measure.
“I told Adele to not play like a freshman,” Holmes said. “I told her she’s a great shooter and to act like it.”
“We need Adele to score,” Berthiaume said. “We can’t just rely on Mackenzie. Brittany and Michelle also scored today. We need more scoring balance than we’ve had.”
Indeed, Desjardin (four steals) had nine points, Rowe (10 rebounds) added seven, Hamilton and Walker each had four, Brent and Michaud (four rebounds, three assists) finished with two apiece and Biamby had one.
The Rams had a commanding 48-31 advantage on the glass, overcame 23 turnovers and hit 12 of 16 foul shots.
Gorham will have its hands full Tuesday morning against a South Portland squad which finds itself in the favorite’s role which the Rams handled so gracefully the past two winters.
The Red Riots won, 54-44, at Gorham Feb. 3 (Holmes reached the 1,000-point mark for her career in that game), but the Rams eliminated South Portland from the past two postseasons in the regional final, including a palpitating 46-44 decision a year ago.
This time around, Gorham has nothing to lose and this proud team can’t be overlooked.
“We have to work on what we didn’t do well last time (we played South Portland) and play solid both halves,” Holmes said. “Everyone has the same goal. We’ll take it game-by-game and see what happens. We’re not satisfied. We’ll keep working on what we need to work on.”
“Our goal is to do what it takes to get back (to the championship),” Nadeau said. “We have to come out like we did today. They’ll be ready and we need to be even more ready.”
“I felt like we deserved to get to Cross Insurance Arena and we’re not satisfied, that’s the major message,” Berthiaume added. “We have a job to do and we’ll go in looking to do it. If we can limit our turnovers and get more shots and get Mackenzie more touches, that’s good news for us.”
MGA was led by the indomitable Reid, who is listed at 5-foot-3, but plays with a much larger presence. Reid finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“Catherine is amazing,” Goodman said. “I’m extremely lucky to coach her. She does everything I ask. She gives everything she’s got.”
Fitzpatrick added six points (and nine rebounds), Joyce four (to go with three blocks), Legassey three, Olson (three steals) and StoreySmith two apiece and Mower one (to go with three steals).
The Lions made 12 of 15 foul shots, but turned the ball over 20 times and never could recover from their slow start.
“I don’t think we were predicted to have a home playoff game this year,” Goodman said. “To get a home game in a very tough AA South, is, to me, incredible.”
MGA says goodbye to Legassey and Weisser, but returns a lot of players who saw key minutes this winter. In 2018-19, the Lions could be primed to roar anew.
“Madison Legassey has come a long way,” Goodman said. “I’m very proud of her. She helped us get to the Civic Center last year when no one thought we could do it. She became a leader this year.
“Emily played a lot as a freshman and sophomore, then unfortunately had two surgeries. She came back, then got hit with the flu. She’s been through everything, but she’s been a great player for four years.
“The girls coming back know what they need to work on. We’ll see what next year brings.”
MGA senior Madison Legassey lines up a shot.
MGA freshman Madison StoreySmith goes up in traffic.
MGA sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick is defended by Gorham senior Michelle Rowe.
MGA sophomore Hope Olson and Gorham junior Courtney Brent battle for a rebound.
MGA sophomore Serena Mower drives on Gorham junior Brittany Desjardin.
Gorham junior Mackenzie Holmes smothers MGA senior Emily Weisser.
MGA junior Catherine Reid drives on Gorham junior Brittany Desjardin. Reid led the Lions with 19 points.
Gorham junior Mackenzie Holmes shoots over MGA senior Emily Weisser (24) and junior Catherine Reid.
MGA senior Emily Weisser and Gorham freshman Adele Nadeau dive for a loose ball.
MGA sophomore Hope Olson (21) hugs senior Madison Legassey as junior Catherine Reid looks on at the end of the contest.
2017 Class AA South semifinals
Gorham 53 MGA 23
2013 Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 46 Gorham 31
2011 Western A semifinals
McAuley 39 Gorham 30
2010 Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 33 Gorham 22
2006 Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 61 Gorham 46