Waynflete's rally falls short at Wells
WELLS—Waynflete's girls' basketball team suffered a loss Saturday evening, but the highly-touted and championship-hungry Flyers hopefully learned a lesson in the process.
No matter how talented your roster and no matter how prolific your offense, if you don't show up for 32 minutes against a good opponent, the result won't be positive.
At Western B contender Wells, a team desperate for a Heal Points-rich victory, Waynflete led only once, 4-3, and found itself down a whopping 20 points, 35-15, at halftime.
Then, the Flyers showed up.
Waynflete cut its deficit to 11 after three periods and thanks to the sharpshooting of senior standout Martha Veroneau, who hit three successive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, drew as close as one point, 42-41, with just under four minutes to play.
The Warriors never relinquished the lead, however, and shot a sizzling 13-of-16 from the foul line down the stretch as they held on for a 57-49 victory, improving to 6-8 and handing the Flyers just their third loss in 13 outings.
Veroneau led all scorers with 26 points and sophomore Julianna Harwood added 15, but it wasn't enough.
"We started off really slow," said Veroneau. "We weren't the team we usually are. Sometimes we just don't realize we have to come in with all our energy or we won't be able to stick with tough teams. We weren't playing as hard as we should. Then, we came out and came back from 20 to one. We can look to a lot of good things in the second half. If we work hard, we can come back from pretty much anything."
A tale of two halves
Waynflete was a regional finalist last year (losing, 43-36, to Hall-Dale in the Western C Final) and cruised in its first two outings this season, 59-32 over visiting Old Orchard Beach and 65-33 at home over Traip, in a game which saw Veroneau break the 1,000-point threshold for her career. After a hard fought 60-55 loss at defending Western B champion Lake Region, the Flyers handled host Sacopee (48-17), visiting North Yarmouth Academy (76-22) and Greenville (71-25), in a game played at the Augusta Civic Center. The arrival of the new year wasn't kind, however, as Waynflete lost in overtime to Cape Elizabeth, 49-45. The Flyers responded with wins at Fryeburg (53-39) and Old Orchard Beach (50-38), at home over Kents Hills (64-39) and Yarmouth (58-37) and at Traip (67-23).
Wells opened with losses to Greely and Poland, defeated Yarmouth and Old Orchard Beach, then lost to Freeport and Gray-New Gloucester. A home win over Fryeburg opened the new year, but the Warriors then lost to Lake Region, Cape Elizabeth and York before edging visiting Freeport and holding off visiting Traip. Friday, Wells fell at Falmouth, 32-30.
Last year, the Warriors won at Waynflete, 47-42. The Flyers prevailed in their last visit to Wells, 46-41, in the 2010-11 regular season finale.
Saturday produced another close contest.
The tone was set just 22 seconds in when the Warrriors struck first, as junior Sophie Lamb scored a layup off an inbounds pass. A free throw from Wells junior Jordan Agger, who was nearly unstoppable off the bench in the first half, made it 3-0.
Waynflete finally got its offense going as Harwood made a 3 and with 5:14 left in the first quarter, Veroneau's free throw put the Flyers up for the only time, 4-3.
With 4:26 to go, Wells junior standout Alisson Furness made a layup and Agger added a layup and later a free throw to make it 8-4.
After Veroneau took a pass from Harwood and made a layup to cut the deficit to two, 8-6, Furness made a layup, Agger was fouled after an offensive rebound and made one free throw and junior Kaitlyn Tufts knocked down a 3 from the wing for a 14-6 lead.
Veroneau fed Harwood for a layup to end the run, but with 17 seconds left, Tufts made a layup to give the Warriors a 16-8 advantage after one quarter.
The second period was even worse for Waynflete.
Tufts got things started with another 3. Flyers freshman Anne Veroneau answered with a 3 of her own, but Furness took a pass from junior Stephanie Woods and made a left-handed layup and Woods (who, along with junior Sydney LaChapelle did a great job defensively on Martha Veroneau in the first half) scored on a runner while being fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and give the hosts a 24-11 lead.
Martha Veroneau answered with a jumper, but Agger hit a leaner, junior Nicole Moody made two foul shots, then hit a runner and with 1:57 to go before halftime, Agger made a layup to make it 32-13 Wells.
With 10 seconds remaining, Veroneau made a layup, but Moody raced back the other way and despite seemingly being pinned on the sideline, threw up a prayer of a 3 from the left side which somehow found the net to fittingly cap a dominating first half and give the Warriors a commanding 35-15 lead.
The Flyers committed 10 first half turnovers, only managed two free throws and didn't come close to matching Wells' energy.
"I thought we were unorganized and there was no intensity," said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. "That was really surprising and disappointing. We're going to miss shots, but we didn't chase them down. It was one-and-done. We had no life. Nobody was sharp in the first half. It's more attitude than shot selection. We rushed shots. Our weakside defense was horrific."
Waynflete knew the game wasn't over and began its long climb back with a Veroneau 3 and a Veroneau leaner in the lane (after she made a great save on the baseline) to cut the deficit to 15, 35-20.
The Warriors got a putback from Furness, but Flyers senior Catherine Veroneau banked home a long 3. After Woods answered with a 3 of her own, Martha Veroneau scored on a leaner, Catherine Veroneau hit a bank shot and inside the final minute, Martha Veroneau made a jump shot to pull Waynflete within 11, 40-29.
"I just told them (at halftime) that we wanted to bring it from a 20-point game to a 10-point game," said Salway. "We got it to 11."
The Flyers could have been even closer entering the fourth, but a late Veroneau 3 went in-and-out and on the play, senior Rhiannan Jackson, the team's tenacious defender and dangerous shooter, was whistled for her fourth foul.
Undaunted, Waynflete kept the pressure on in the final stanza and almost came all the way back.
After Wells stretched its lead to 42-29 on a pair of Furness free throws, Veroneau began to heat up from the perimeter, hitting successive 3s to suddenly make it a 42-35 game and force Wells coach Don Abbott to call timeout.
It didn't help as Veroneau made another 3 with 4:42 to go and Harwood immediately stole the ball and made a layup to cut the deficit to just two, 42-40.
After Woods missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Flyers had a chance to pull even or go ahead and with 3:52 remaining, Veroneau was fouled after an offensive rebound and went to the line. She missed the first attempt, however, and while the second was on target, Waynflete was still down a point, 42-41.
Then, the Warriors showed the Flyers how clutch free throw shooting is done.
First, with 3:37 showing, Furness hit both ends of a one-and-one, ending a 20-2 Waynflete run.
After Harwood missed a potential game-tying 3, Furness was fouled again and again made both attempts to push the lead back up to five, 46-41.
With 2:50 to go, it was Lamb's turn and she made both attempts. After Veroneau and junior Leigh Fernandez were both off target on 3-point attempts, Moody made one of two foul shots. Moody added another with 1:35 left and Wells had a little breathing room again, up, 50-41.
Seven seconds later, Harwood drew Waynflete back within seven with two free throws, but with 1:08 to go, Moody went back to the line and this time hit both attempts.
"They were unbelievable from the line," said Veroneau. "It seemed like they were 100 percent."
Harwood made a 3 with a minute to go, keeping it a two-possession contest, 52-46, but with 52 seconds to play, Moody made two more free throws.
With 34 seconds left, Harwood threw up a long 3 which hit the rim before dropping in, keeping faint hope alive for the Flyers who trailed, 54-49.
Moody was then fouled and hit her first free throw, but missed the second.
Lamb was there for the rebound, however, and kissed the ball home off the glass and that was the backbreaker.
Wells held on from there and locked up its hard fought 57-49 victory.
"It's not the way I thought the game would go at all," said Abbott. "I didn't expect to be up 20 at halftime. Obviously, momentum was on their side (in the second half). I'm proud of how the kids stepped up and kept them at bay. Moody at point guard especially. Waynflete's an athletic team. Before she went off, I thought we did a good job on Martha. We had talked about playing a junk defense, but I have some good athletes on the perimeter, so we talked about hedging hard and doubling and making her give it up. We committed to guarding the arc. Normally, we're OK if a team beats us from 22 feet, but (Waynflete) doesn't have a back-to-the-basket presence, so we tried to take that away.
"I'm pleased with the outcome. It was a good effort. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come. We have some talented kids. Furness is obviously one of the better players in the league. We didn't realize how valuable our seniors were who we lost. It's been a process this year."
"It was a great comeback, but it took too much out of us," Salway said. "I think we learned something from it. I hope we learned a lot and we know we can come back. I just hope we're not down that much anymore."
Veroneau made 10 field goals, including four of her team's nine 3-pointers, and sank a couple free throws for her game-high 26 points. Harwood was terrific as well, making three 3s, a pair of field goals and two free throws for 15 points. Catherine Veroneau added five points and Anne Veroneau had three.
Waynflete was outrebounded, 29-26. Harwood and Martha Veroneau each had six, Jackson and sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer, who was a sparkplug off the bench, five apiece. Harwood also had five of the Flyers' 14 steals.
Waynflete went 4-of-6 from the foul stripe and only turned the ball over 11 times, but couldn't dig out of its first half hole.
For Wells, Furness led the way with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Moody had 13 points and six boards. Agger, who has bounced back from what looked to be a serious knee injury in the win over Freeport, added nine points (and seven rebounds).
"The first half was great for (Jordan)," said Abbott. "She's a gifted offensive player for us. She gave us a big lift. She has a high basketball IQ."
Tufts had eight points and Lamb and Woods six apiece.
The Warriors committed 20 turnovers, but made 21-of-30 free throws, including that great fourth quarter stretch which spelled the difference.
"The difference was at the free throw line," Abbott said. "That's been an Achilles' of ours."
Nearing the end
Wells (now 10th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, the top 12 teams make the tournament) is at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday, hosts Falmouth Friday, then closes with games at Traip and at home versus York.
"I can't say for sure, but this certainly helps the cause considerably," Abbott said. "The league is a bear. Everybody's better than they were last year. The prelims will be wild. It will be a fun tournament. I hope we're part of it."
Waynflete (fifth in the Western C Heals) likely won't be tested again, as it goes to Hebron and NYA next week and visits Kents Hill and hosts Greater Portland Christian School and Sacopee to close. If the Flyers move up to third, they'll avoid a preliminary round playoff game, but regardless of what happens, this group knows the hour is growing late and that it's time to display the consistency of the championship team they hope to become.
"We're going to go into practice Monday and work harder," said Veroneau. "We have seven practices and five games left. Everything leading up to February break will be crucial. We have to hone in and focus on our goal. Obviously, we have to work harder, but we have a great group and a great coach. It's a once in a lifetime team. We're not giving up. This was obviously a tough loss and we've had some tough patches during the season, but we've had some great games as well and we know we can be where we want to be in February. We just have to work for it."
"We had a long talk after the game about what we want to do and that it's going to end abruptly if we don't fix the beginning," Salway said. "We've talked about the time this group has left. It's not much. They need to enjoy it and take advantage of the opportunity. It's a great group to coach. Either way, I and they are going to be bummed when it ends. Hopefully this was our last loss."