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Maine Girls’ Academy sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick goes up for two points during the Lions’ 57-34 home win over Biddeford Tuesday. Fitzpatrick had a rare triple-double of 11 points, 13 steals and 10 rebounds.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
B- 11 4 6 13- 34
MGA- 15 15 18 9-57
B- Martin 7-3-17, Illiano 3-0-6, Cote 2-0-4, Michaud 1-0-3, Kimball 1-0-2, Wildes 1-0-2
MGA- Fitzpatrick 5-1-11, Joyce 4-2-10, Mower 3-4-10, StoreySmith 3-2-8, Reid 3-0-7, Olson 3-0-6, Weisser 1-0-3, Beaulieu 1-0-2
B (1) Michaud 1
MGA (2) Reid, Weisser 1
PORTLAND—The Maine Girls’ Academy basketball team has put an unaccustomed difficult season behind it and has made great strides in the first three weeks of the new season.
Tuesday evening, the Lions came up with a couple of reasons why the 2018 portion of their schedule could be even more triumphant.
For starters, senior Emily Weisser, who missed most of the last two seasons and the first four games of this year with a recurring knee injury, made her first appearance, giving a promising squad additional ammunition.
If that wasn’t inspirational enough, sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick, in just her fifth game in an MGA uniform, produced a rarity, a triple-double, to help the Lions handle visiting Biddeford to remain undefeated on the season.
MGA fell behind the Tigers and their junior standout Grace Martin, 7-3, but after Lions coach Billy Goodman inserted three subs, including Fitzpatrick, everything changed.
MGA closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to take the lead for good, 9-7, then stretched that advantage to 30-15 at halftime.
The Lions never let up in the second half, going on an 11-2 surge out of the break, then pushing their advantage to 48-21 after three quarters before going to a decisive and impressive 57-34 victory.
Fitzpatrick finished with 11 points, 13 steals and 10 rebounds, junior Jill Joyce and sophomore Serena Mower both had 10 points and Weisser scored three points and gave her teammates a lift as MGA improved to 5-0, dropping Biddeford to 2-4 in the process.
“Last year, we started over,” Goodman said. “We had no real varsity experience, but we had a fun year and got to the Civic Center. Now, all these girls have experience. They’ve worked hard in the summer and know they’re smarter.”
After the kind a “down year” (8-12 after a loss to Gorham in the AA South semifinals) which most programs would take in a heartbeat, MGA has returned to its accustomed top contender status this winter.
The Lions opened with a 52-44 win at Noble, then downed visiting Sanford (48-41), Westbrook (54-37) and Bonny Eagle (59-40).
Biddeford started with a 45-38 home loss to Kennebunk, a 48-46 home loss to Marshwood and a 46-33 setback at Lincoln Academy before downing host Falmouth (39-28) and visiting Mt. Ararat (45-40).
The teams didn’t play the last two years (the Lions downed host Biddeford, 57-19, Jan. 2, 2015 in the most recent encounter).
Tuesday, MGA roared to life after a sluggish start to stay undefeated.
Mower hit a foul shot to open the scoring 36 seconds in. The Tigers’ first points then came on a transition jumper from senior Azure Illiano.
After Lions freshman Madison Storey-Smith entered the game and finished a feed from junior Catherine Reid with a layup, the next five points went to Martin, who scored on a putback, then made a leaner while being fouled and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 7-3 lead.
Back roared the hosts, as sophomore Hope Olson made a layup after a steal, Reid hit a runner after grabbing an offensive rebound and Fitzpatrick first made her presence felt, scoring on a leaner for a 9-7 advantage, forcing Biddeford coach Katie Herbine to call timeout.
It didn’t help, as Joyce made two free throws, then put home a miss to stretch the run to 10-0.
The Tigers snapped a 3:56 drought when Martin drove for a layup with 1:04 on the clock, but Reid scored on another runner. With time winding down, Martin set up junior Taylor Wildes for a layup, but MGA took a 15-11 lead to the second period.
“We’re at the point now where the bench is going in no matter who we’re playing,” Goodman said. “I trust them and they’re going to play. We have a bunch of girls who can play.”
In the first eight minutes, the Lions forced eight turnovers (three of them coming on Fitzpatrick steals) to counteract Martin’s seven points and seven rebounds.
MGA opened it up even more in the second period.
After Joyce hit a long jumper for the Lions and Martin drove and banked home a runner for the Tigers, Goodman called timeout and eventually, his charges came to life.
With 4:07 left in the half, Mower scored on a runner, sparking an 8-0 run, which also included a Mower layup (off a Reid inbounds pass), two Mower free throws (after she was fouled on a 3) and a Joyce layup (set up by Reid).
A Martin pullup jumper with 1:48 on the clock snapped the run and a 4:42 drought, but 15 seconds later, Joyce set up Weisser for a long 3-pointer, which found nothing but net and brought the partisan crowd to its feet.
“I’m not used to playing, but it’s so good to be back,” Weisser said. “It was scary, but I tried to get over it. I would say I’m 75 percent back. It was a mental game coming back, but I’m getting over it. I just really wanted to play for the team and for Coach Goodman again. (Our team is) really fun to watch and they’re more fun to play with.”
“I’m so happy for Emily,” said Fitzpatrick. “She’s an amazing person.”
“I told Emily she’s learned sitting on the bench,” Goodman added. “She did a lot of good things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. She’s one of the best defenders I’ve coached and I love defense. The young girls watch Emily in practice. Fundamentally, she does a lot of things well.”
With 36.5 seconds on the clock, Joyce set up Fitzpatrick for a layup and a 30-15 advantage.
In the first half, MGA forced 19 turnovers (Fitzpatrick had eight steals) and got eight points from Joyce. Martin had 11 points and nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough.
A jumper from Joyce started the second half scoring. Fitzpatrick then stole the ball and set up Mower for a layup. After a Illiano jumper, Fitzpatrick hit a baseline jumper, then on successive plays, she stole the ball and made layups to stretch the lead to 41-17.
After Martin stemmed the tide with two free throws and a bank shot, Reid sank a 3, Olson made a layup after a nice spin move and on the fastbreak, Reid set up Storey-Smith for a layup and a 48-21 advantage after three periods.
Early in the fourth quarter, Biddeford got a jumper from Illiano and a fadeaway jumper from Martin, but Fitzpatrick made a free throw and StoreySmith did the same.
After sophomore Cori Cote made a leaner for the visitors, sophomore Carly Beaulieu hit a baseline jumper after a nice move, Olson scored on a putback and StoreySmith took a pass from Reid, made a layup while being fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play, extending the lead to 57-27.
Down the stretch, the Tigers got a 3 from senior Melody Michaud, a layup from junior Jada Kimball and a layup from Cote, but MGA went on to a 57-34 victory.
Fitzpatrick stole the show with her stat-sheet stuffing to the tune of 11 points, 13 steals and 10 rebounds.
“It’s very important to me for us to all work together,” said Fitzpatrick. “When I got those steals, I just tried to do it for my team. We realize everyone on the team has a role. When we come off the bench, we try to bring energy.”
“Katie was pressing a little the first couple games, but she comes to practice wanting to get better,” Goodman said. “She’s constantly listening and constantly trying and tonight, it came together for her. She played without fouling, she used her feet. She’s improved a lot. She lets the game come to her.”
Mower and Joyce (six rebounds) both finished in double figures with 10 points, while StoreySmith had eight points, Reid (five assists) seven, Olson (four steals) six, Weisser three and Beaulieu two.
The Lions had a 39-37 rebounding advantage, overcame 16 turnovers and made 9 of 13 free throws.
Biddeford got a stellar effort from Martin, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocked shots.
“We knew Grace is good and we recognized she’s a big part of their team,” said Fitzpatrick. “We tried to limit her points.”
Illiano added six points, Cote had four, Michaud three and Kimball and Wildes (six rebounds, five blocks) two apiece.
The Tigers were doomed by 32 turnovers and made 3 of 5 foul shots.
Biddeford is back in action Friday at Bonny Eagle.
MGA, meanwhile, has some big games coming up, beginning Friday at Windham. After a trip to Massabesic, the Lions are at two-time defending Class AA champion Gorham and host this year’s favorite, South Portland.
“We need to get better in the halfcourt,” said Fitzpatrick. “We have to keep working hard.”
“I think we have a really good shot of going far and surprising teams that didn’t give us credit,” Weisser said. “I’m excited to see where it goes.”
“We have to keep working on defense and our ball movement on offense,” Goodman added. “The girls are getting better. We’re having a blast this year.”
MGA sophomore Serena Mower lines up a shot. Mower had 10 points in the win.
MGA senior Madison Legassey is defended by Biddeford sophomore Megan Mourmouras.
MGA sophomore Hope Olson goes up for a shot in traffic.
MGA junior Catherine Reid defends Biddeford sophomore Megan Mourmouras.
MGA junior Jill Joyce shoots over Biddeford junior Taylor Wildes.
MGA senior Emily Weisser, who returned from knee injury to play her first game this winter, is blocked out by Biddeford junior Grace Martin.