PORTLAND—It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the injury-decimated Waynflete girls’ basketball team, but with a trip to Augusta on the line Tuesday evening, the Flyers put forth a spectacular effort.
Hosting No. 10 Lisbon in a Western Class C preliminary round contest, seventh-ranked Waynflete came out sizzling, forcing turnovers, getting easy hoops and knocking down 3-pointers.
That effort spelled a 20-6 lead after one quarter and a commanding 39-15 advantage at the break and the Flyers went on to a 65-31 triumph behind 31 points from junior standout Martha Veroneau, improved to 12-7 and set up a quarterfinal round date with second-ranked Madison Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.
“It’s been a challenging year, but there’s no quit in this group,” said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway.
Waynflete has been very competitive the past four years, falling in the semifinals in 2008, the regional final in 2009 and 2010 and the semifinals last winter. The Flyers had high hopes entering the 2011-12 season, but were hindered by injuries to several key players and struggled much of the way. In fact, Waynflete was sitting at 5-7 prior to a trip to Hyde the last day of January. The Flyers won that one, then rattled off five more to finish 11-7.
Lisbon went 7-11 in the regular season. Waynflete did not face the Greyhounds this winter and the teams had no prior playoff history.
It didn’t take long for the Flyers, even with junior Catherine Veroneau, sophomore Ella Millard and freshman Dana Peirce watching from the bench in street clothes, to put their stamp on the game.
Just 44 seconds in, unheralded junior Rhiannan Jackson took a pass from promising freshman Julianna Harwood and made a layup to put Waynflete ahead to stay.
Martha Veroneau set up sophomore Leigh Fernandez for a layup and after a Lisbon timeout, Veroneau hit a pullup jumper for a 6-0 advantage.
The Greyhounds finally got on the board with 4:48 to go in the first period when senior Briana Moore made a layup after a steal, but Veroneau answered with a 3.
After junior Denise Thomas hit a leaner for Lisbon, Veroneau made two foul shots. Thomas scored on a putback to cut the deficit to 11-6, but the Flyers closed the first period on a 9-0 run.
A putback from Harwood was followed by a putback from freshman Helen Gray-Bauer (who, prior to the game, produced a spectacular version of the national anthem on her viola), a pullup jumper from Veroneau and a 3 from Fernandez (set up Veroneau after a steal).
Waynflete opened things up even further in the second quarter.
Veroneau got it started by taking a pass from Fernandez and hitting a 3 from the corner. After senior Jessica Campbell made a layup for the Greyhounds, Harwood kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Veroneau, who hit another 3. Veroneau then went coast-to-coast for a layup with 6:08 remaining in the half and the Flyers had a 20-point lead, 28-8.
After Campbell made a layup, senior Alexa Harmon gave Lisbon a little hope with a 3, but Harwood set up Veroneau for another 3 and Fernandez added a 3 to make it 34-13.
With 2:37 to go, a leaner from senior Haley Eck gave the Greyhounds their final points of the half. Fernandez then hit another 3 and in the final minute, Harwood (from sophomore Louise Lyall) made a layup and Waynflete had a 39-15 lead at the break.
“We were able to dictate the pace,” Salway said. “We wanted to run and be aggressive offensively. We came out strong and moved the ball really well. Martha kind of controlled the game. She’s been terrific since coming back (from an ankle injury).”
The Flyers never let up in the second half, extending the advantage to 53-23 after three quarters. They went on to put the finishing touches on their 65-31 triumph.
Veroneau led all scorers and matched Lisbon’s total with a season-high 31 points. That included five 3-pointers. She also had nine rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Fernandez added 14 points and a pair of assists.
“Leigh was also outstanding tonight,” said Salway. “She deflected a lot of balls on the defensive end and she was attacking on offense. She ran the floor well and kept a lot of rebounds alive by tipping them.”
Jackson continued to dominate on the glass with 14 rebounds. She also had four points.
“Rhiannan seemed to get every defensive rebound,” Salway said.
Gray-Bauer had 10 points and Harwood added six (with seven rebounds).
“The freshmen played like veterans,” said Salway.
Harmon led Lisbon with 13 points. Campbell added eight.
“It was a good start to the playoffs for us,” Salway said.
The tenacious and resilient Flyers will make the trip to Augusta for the sixth year in a row and will battle Madison (15-3) Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The teams don’t play in the regular season, but have met twice before in the playoffs. The Bulldogs eliminated Waynflete in the 2006 preliminary round (71-32) and again in the regional final two years ago (37-23).
While the Flyers will be the underdog, it’s never smart to count out this determined group.
“I think we’ll be able to play pretty loose, being the No. 7 seed,” Salway said. “We can go in (to the Augusta Civic Center) and give it our best shot. We’ll really have to play well. Madison earned the No. 2 seed. They’re extremely well coached. They have a solid team. They play very good team defense. They’re always in it. It’s a great program. Hopefully we can extend the season again.”