Waynflete girls handle Dirigo in quarterfinal

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AUGUSTA — It could have been better.

That’s how Brandon Salway saw his team’s quarterfinal game Tuesday.

His Waynflete girls’ basketball team didn’t shoot like they normally do, but it didn’t seem to matter. The fourth-ranked Flyers came out strong against a young fifth-seeded Dirigo team and opened the lead in the first quarter. Waynflete barely looked back in a convincing 69-39 win over the Cougars in a Western C quarterfinal.

“Our outside shot was pretty off the mark,” said Salway. “I thought we can play a lot better. Defensively, we did a nice job. We got a lot out of our pressure, and that really helps.”

The Cougars fell behind by as many as 14 points in the first quarter and couldn’t keep pace with the seasoned Flyers. Waynflete has been to the quarterfinals seven straight years and in the regional final three times in the last four years. Dirigo has 10 underclassmen on its roster and four seniors.

“Last year, we missed court time down here,” said Dirigo coach Reggie Weston, whose team lost in a prelim last winter. “We lost four senior starters to graduation. So this was a new experience for the young ones.”

Dirigo was plagued by 11 turnovers in the first quarter and only managed six shots from the floor in the first eight minutes. The second quarter was a slight improvement with six turnovers and 5-for-9 from the floor.

“Usually we’re pretty good press breaking,” said Weston. “We were wondering how that was going to work. We’ve broken presses, and you work on it and work on it, and it just got away from us.”

Though the Flyers didn’t have the outside punch it often has, hitting just a trio of 3, Waynflete used a strong inside game instead.

“Rhiannan (Jackson), Julianna (Harwood) and Catherine (Veroneau) all did a nice job complimenting each other,” said Salway. “They did a good job rebounding and the interior passing was pretty good. We definitely missed the 3’s, but sometimes it gives us a good chance to get the rebound.”

Martha Veroneau finished with 24 points to lead the Flyers (16-3). Jackson had 15 while Harwood added 11. Helen Gray-Bauer chipped in nine off the bench.

“It’s really been the goal for the last year,” said Salway of developing balance in his lineup. “Everybody has improved a lot. (Martha Veroneau) has been playing the distributor role at times. She’s a great passer, and she’s just as happy to pass as she is to score. She just wants to win.”

Dirigo (15-5) got 11 from Kelsey Hutchins and eight from Lauren Henderson.

The Flyers broke open the lead early with 12 straight points. Jackson led the charge with six points in the first while Leigh Fernandez and Martha Veroneau each had four as Waynflete built an 18-6 lead.

In the second, Lexi Noyes gave the Cougars some life. She hit three straight shots, including a 3 to get Dirigo within 20-13 with 6:17 left in the half. The Flyers answered that by scoring 13 straight. Harwood and Martha Veroneau each had five points during that run. Dirigo got baskets late in the half by Kayla Gaudin and Henderson to make it 34-19 at the half.

For much of the first half, Dirigo had as many turnovers as points. The Flyers forced 17 in the first half and nearly 30 overall.

“We changed difference pressures and gave them different looks,” said Salway. “I think we got a lot of deflections. We talk a lot about deflections and trying to turn those deflections into steals and those steals into points.”

Waynflete advances to meet top-ranked Boothbay in the semifinals Thursday.