Waynflete continues to wow, knocks off top-ranked BBR
AUGUSTA—It's beginning to look as if there's absolutely nothing that will stop the Waynflete girls' basketball team.
After a stellar regular season, the fourth-ranked and senior-laden Flyers have been on a mission to sap the will out of their opponent as rapidly as possible since the postseason began, dominating No. 13 Carrabec in the preliminary round last week and fifth-ranked Dirigo in the quarterfinals.
Thursday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center, Waynflete put on its most impressive show yet.
The Flyers broke the will of top-ranked Boothbay Region in the first period, never trailed and raced to a 22-11 lead behind 12 points from senior standout Martha Veroneau and eight forced turnovers. By halftime, Waynflete was up, 36-20, and even though the Seahawks momentarily drew within 11 in the third quarter, the Flyers went on a 12-2 run to extend their advantage to 21 and they never looked back, cruising to a 73-52 victory.
Veroneau led all scorers with 31 points, senior Rhiannan Jackson added 16 points and everyone else who took the floor contributed as Waynflete improved to 18-3, ended Boothbay's season at 17-3 and advanced to face No. 2 Madison (17-3) in the Western Class C Final Saturday at 7 p.m., in Augusta.
"The quick start was crucial, getting in (Boothbay's) heads," said Veroneau, who continues to treat the Augusta Civic Center like her personal playground. "We went off from there and never looked back. They're a tough team and we knew they could come back, but it was a great team effort and a lot of intensity on our part."
Home away from home
Waynflete has been very comfortable and successful at the Augusta Civic Center in recent years, winning nine of 15 games since its first appearance in 2007.
This winter, the Flyers have higher expectations than ever.
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 in Augusta. 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). Waynflete then dropped a close 57-49 decision at Wells before bouncing back with one-sided victories at Hebron (81-20), NYA (75-25) and Kents Hill (69-40, game which saw Veroneau pass her sister, Margaret, to become the program's all-time leading scorer) and at home over Greater Portland Christian School (64-23) and Sacopee (63-20) to finish fourth in the region.
After losing to Waynflete in last year's semifinals, Boothbay entered this season as a favorite in Western C and after losing two of its first four games, hit its stride and closed on a 14-game win streak to earn the top seed. In the quarterfinals Tuesday, the Seahawks ousted No. 8 St. Dom's after a struggle, 43-37.
Last year's encounter was the only prior between the Flyers and Seahawks and it produced a record-setting show from Veroneau, who went off for 47 points.
Thursday, Veroneau and her teammates set the tone early and left little doubt that they're now the team to beat in the region and perhaps all of Class C.
It was clear it wasn't going to be Boothbay's day when the Seahawks won the opening tip, but promptly threw the ball away.
Veroneau then spotted Jackson for a layup and the Flyers were ahead to stay. Senior Catherine Veroneau made it 4-0, taking a pass from sophomore Julianna Harwood and making a layup. Boothbay got on the board with 6:35 left in the quarter when its star senior Alexandra Clarke scored on a putback, but Martha Veroneau canned a 3. Junior Abby McLellan got 3 back for the Seahawks, cutting the deficit to 7-5, but they wouldn't get any closer.
Junior Leigh Fernandez set up Harwood for a layup, Martha Veroneau did the same to sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer, who entered the game and immediately scored, and Veroneau scored on a driving layup to make it 13-5.
"(Martha) stepped up early, which took the pressure off everybody else," said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. "It was nice to see her show people who she is if they haven't seen her play."
After Seahawks senior Sarah Caron scored on a runner, Veroneau made a leaner and the next time down added a foul shot. Caron made a jumper and Clarke scored on a putback to make it 16-11, but Waynflete closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, getting a layup from Jackson (assisted by Veroneau), two Veroneau free throws after a steal and a pullup Veroneau bank shot for a commanding 22-11 advantage.
"I think one of the things I was nervous about was the start," said Jackson. "Coming out strong was really important. We had to win the game from the beginning."
In the first quarter alone, the Flyers forced eight turnovers, while only committing one, and got 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists from Veroneau, who at that point was on pace to break her tourney scoring record.
Waynflete did not let up in the second period.
Catherine Veroneau got things started with a 3. Veroneau, who missed much of each of the past two seasons with knee injuries, has certainly made the most of her time on the big stage.
"It's amazing to be playing," Veroneau said. "It's a great group of girls to be playing with as well. Watching last year was fun, but playing is so much better. I made it through the regular season, which was in the back of my mind. Now it's playoffs, so I might as well go out and give it my all."
"Catherine works so hard," Salway said. "It was such a tough loss for our team (the past two years). It's impressive for her to be here and for her to play the way she does. I really respect her."
After Seahawks sophomore Morgan Crocker scored on a bank shot and Clarke added a free throw, Jackson spotted an open Fernandez, who canned a 3. Senior Allison Carbone-Crocker made a layup for Boothbay, but after a Martha Veroneau steal, Veroneau set up Fernandez for a layup.
Caron made a bank shot, but Veroneau banked home a 3 while being shoved to the ground. After Carbone-Crocker made a bank shot, a long 3 from Jackson put the Flyers in control, 36-20, at halftime.
Waynflete forced 13 first half turnovers, while only committing five, and got 15 points and six boards from Veroneau.
Boothbay hoped to make a game of it in the second half and started strong.
McLellan made a layup that was answered by a Fernandez 3 and a Veroneau free throw, but Caron knocked down a jumper. After Jackson made one foul shot, Clark scored on a short jumper, Carbone-Crocker scored on a putback and a leaner from McLellan pulled the Seahawks within 11, 41-30, forcing Salway to call timeout with just over three minutes remaining in the period.
Then, the Flyers responded, closing the frame on a 12-2 run.
Fernandez spotted a wide-open Jackson for a layup and after a steal at one end, Harwood put home a miss while being fouled and converted the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.
Carbone-Crocker got two points back with a layup, but Jackson converted a three-point play, Jackson fed Veroneau for a layup off an inbounds pass and Veroneau scored on a putback to make it 53-32 after three.
"We knew this is our time and we needed to pick it up and bring (the lead back) to 20," Jackson said. "We talked about making backdoor cuts and seeing them."
"We had talked at halftime about taking our 16 point lead to 20," Salway said. "It was 11 and we knew we could still get it to 20. We just had a little lull."
Clarke made a layup to start the fourth, but Harwood got an offensive rebound and fed Gray-Bauer for a short jumper and Veroneau took a pass from Fernandez and made a 3. After Clarke scored on a putback, Veroneau made another 3. Caron scored on a layup and Clarke added another, but Harwood scored on a putback and Jackson made a free throw.
Carbone-Crocker made a bank shot, but Veroneau answered with a pullup jumper. Carbone-Crocker scored on a layup, but Veroneau canned a long 3 from the left wing to go over 30 points and make it 69-44.
Down the stretch, Clarke scored on a leaner off the glass, McLellan added a free throw, Jackson countered with a layup, Clarke hit a leaner, Clarke made a free throw, freshman Anne Veroneau delivered Waynflete's final points with two foul shots and Crocker brought a finish to the festivities with a free throw which gave the Flyers the 73-52 decision.
"Having a fast-paced game was crucial," Martha Veroneau said. "If they slowed it down with their height, it would have been harder for us."
"The game plan was to keep a fast pace and keep their post players in check," said Catherine Veroneau. "I think we executed pretty well."
"I was pleased," Salway added. "We shared the ball well. I thought our movement was good. We didn't shoot great on Tuesday, but I thought we stepped into our shots with more confidence tonight. We missed some early, but I liked our aggressiveness out of the box. We set the pace for the game. Hopefully we get some rest tomorrow because we'll have to do it against Saturday."
Martha Veroneau had herself another tournament game to remember, tallying 31 points on six two-pointers, five 3s and four foul shots.
Once again, she had plenty of help.
Jackson had 16 points, Fernandez eight, Harwood seven, Catherine Veroneau five, Gray-Bauer four and Anne Veroneau two.
The Flyers finished with nine 3-pointers to just one for Boothbay.
On the glass, Harwood once again led the way with 10, while Martha Veroneau collected nine, Catherine Veroneau six and Jackson five.
"I'm really proud of Rhiannan, Julianna and Catherine with rebounding," Salway said. "I thought our rebounding was really good."
Waynflete had 13 steals, with Harwood pilfering five, Jackson and Martha Veroneau three each and Fernandez a pair.
The Flyers, even playing at their frenetic pace, only committed 10 turnovers. They shot 10-of-17 from the foul line.
Clarke paced the Seahawks with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, but for the most part, Waynflete held her relatively in check.
"It was a team effort on (Clarke)," Martha Veroneau said. "Julianna did a great job down low. We've worked a lot of on defensive rebounding and boxing out. Brandon's incredible getting us to where we have to be to compete with taller teams."
Carbone-Crocker added 12 points (and five rebounds), Caron had 10 (eight boards and three steals), McLellan eight and Crocker three.
Boothbay had a 35-31 rebounding advantage.
The Seahawks were doomed by 23 turnovers and they shot 5-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Here we go again
For the fourth time in five seasons, Waynflete is one step from a first trip to the Class C state game, but once again, the Flyers will have a tough time getting through the regional final round.
Awaiting Waynflete Saturday will be No. 2 Madison (17-3, after eking out an overtime win over No. 3 Old Orchard Beach in its semifinal Thursday). The Flyers don't face the Bulldogs in the regular season. Waynflete lost to Madison in the 2006 preliminary round (71-32) and the 2010 regional final and beat the Bulldogs in last year's quarterfinals, 56-39.
In previous regional final visits, Waynflete was eliminated by Jay in 2009 (40-38), Madison in 2010 (37-23) and Hall-Dale last season.
This time, the Flyers are consumed with advancing, keeping this special season alive and giving themselves an opportunity at immortality.
"Coming out strong will be really important again," Catherine Veroneau said. "We want to set the tone early."
"Hopefully we have two more games," Jackson said. "This has been the best season I've had in my high school career. I'm excited to keep it going."
"(Madison's) definitely a tough team," Martha Veroneau said. "Anything can happen in a regional final. We want to win it so bad. I think of freshman year when we lost to (Madison) and every year since going into the locker room and saying next year we'll do it. Now, there's no next year. I really believe this is the team that will do it. With Brandon leading us and with the group of girls we have, no matter what, it's been a great run."
"We have to be like we were today," Salway added. "We're going to have to be just as aggressive. We have to finally beat a Mountain Valley Conference team in the championship game. Until we do it, we haven't done it. We need to finish it off. This is full circle for the seniors. Martha and Catherine combined for I think one point in that (2010) loss. Hopefully we can finish it off this time. It's hard to win games here no matter what seed you are. This is a special group. They've put a lot of hours into this over the summer and in camps. Hopefully it will pay off Saturday night."