PORTLAND—The Waynflete girls’ basketball team knows it has the opportunity to do special things this season, but the Flyers learned a painful lesson Jan. 3 when they were upset at home by Cape Elizabeth.
Since then, Waynflete has committed to coming out strong and playing a full 32 minutes, elements that were on display Monday afternoon when it hosted Kents Hill.
The Flyers scored the first eight points of the game, went up, 13-1, early, 23-5 after one quarter and never looked back.
Waynflete got a game-high 28 points from senior standout Martha Veroneau, a superb all-around effort from senior Rhiannan Jackson and produced a tremendous display of teamwork, as 19 of its 26 field goals were assisted as the Flyers rolled to a 64-39 triumph, improving 8-2, dropping Huskies to 2-3.
“Cape was a bit of a wakeup call,” Veroneau said. “We went into that game and saw their record at 1-4 and kind of underestimated them. After that game, we realized we’re only as good as we’ve worked. We’ve realized we have to work hard every day to be where we want to be.”
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.
“It was good for us,”Waynflete coach Brandon Salway said. “Cape is a pretty good team. We felt like we should have won, but they beat us. We gave them opportunities and they took advantage. We’ve referred to that game several times and I’m sure we’ll continue to do that.”
The Flyers responded with wins at Fryeburg (53-39) and Old Orchard Beach (50-38).
Kents Hill entered at 2-2, having beaten Hebron and Sacopee and lost to Hyde and Old Orchard Beach.
The teams didn’t play last year.
Monday, it didn’t take long for the Flyers to take full command.
Waynflete took the lead for good on a 3-ball 89 seconds in, when, in a sign of things to come, Veroneau knocked down a 3, assisted by senior and twin sister Catherine Veroneau.
Fifteen seconds later, Martha Veroneau set up sophomore Julianna Harwood for a layup and at the 4:55 mark, Catherine Veroneau passed to Jackson, who buried a 3 to make it 8-0.
Kents Hill got on the board when Sara Grenier made a free throw, but Martha Veroneau knocked down a 3, then fed freshman baby sister Anne Veroneau for a transition layup for a 13-1 lead.
After Grenier knocked down a jumper, Martha Veroneau answered with a layup. Grenier hit another jumper, but Waynflete closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run as Veroneau fed Jackson for a layup, Jackson set up Veroneau for a 3 and junior Leigh Fernandez made a 3 for a 23-5 advantage.
Veroneau had 11 points and Waynflete forced seven turnovers in the first eight minutes.
After Fernandez opened the second period with a layup (assisted by Harwood), Ashley Doyle scored on a putback for the Huskies to end the 10-0 run, but freshman Arianna Giguere made a jump shot and Anne Veroneau set up Martha Veroneau for a 3-ball for a 30-7 lead.
Grenier countered with three free throws in a 44-second span before Fernandez made a layup after a steal. Grenier got two points back with a leaner before Jackson made a layup and Martha Veroneau passed to junior Louise Lyall for a layup and a 35-12 advantage at halftime.
“I feel like we came out pretty hard and had a good first half,” Salway said. “We played everybody a lot. I tried to share the minutes.”
Ten of Waynflete’s 14 first half field goals were assisted.
“We’re a team and we work together,” said Jackson. “We could have taken breakaways by ourselves, but we let other people take shots. Martha is so unselfish. She could score all day by herself, but she’ll pass it to someone else to give them an open shot.”
“The team chemistry is so good,” said Martha Veroneau. “We’re not just teammates. We’re friends on and off the court. That really pays off. We’re all so unselfish. That’s why we work together so well.”
“I thought we were a little too unselfish at times,” Salway added. “I want them to take an open layup or uncontested 3. We did a great job sharing the ball. We didn’t have dribbling breaks. We had people passing ahead.”
Kents Hill played hard throughout the second half.
A Jackson putback started the third period scoring. Grenier answered with two foul shots, but Jackson fed Martha Veroneau for a 3, Catherine Veroneau set up Jackson for a layup, Martha Veroneau scored on a putback, Veroneau made a layup after a Fernandez steal, Veroneau made a layup after a steal, then made one more after a steal by Harwood for a 50-14 lead.
A putback from Emma Curnin ended the run and Grenier scored on a putback. After Harwood converted a putback, the Huskies got a jumper from Grenier and a putback from Doyle to make it a 52-22 game after three.
Grenier started the fourth period with a putback, Martha Veroneau set up Catherine Veroneau for a layup, but Curnin made a bank shot and after a Catherine Veroneau free thow, Grenier scored on a putback and Curnin made a layup to make the score 55-30.
Jackson set up Martha Veroneau for a 3 to answer. After Curnin banked home a leaner, Veroneau passed up top to Harwood, who showed impressive range with a 3-ball.
Grenier countered with a free throw and Curnin sank two, but with 1:01 to go, Giguere took a pass from Anne Veroneau and made a 3 for the Flyers’ final points.
In the final minute, Doyle made a layup and Grenier scored on a driving layup to account for the 64-39 final score.
“We wanted to come out and take it to them,” Jackson said. “Cape was really upsetting. We had to put it behind us and bring it in this game and in the games to come.”
Waynflete got a game-high 28 points from Martha Veroneau, who made six of her team’s 10 3-pointers and also had 10 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals. Jackson added 10 points, while Fernandez and Harwood had seven each, Giguere five, Catherine Veroneau three and Lyall and Anne Veroneau two apiece.
“Everybody on this team plays an important role,” said Martha Veroneau. “Even if you sit on the bench or set screens, everyone plays a crucial role.”
The Flyers were outrebounded, 42-41, but Jackson, who is far from the tallest player on the floor, pulled down 15.
“I think Brandon does a good job of practicing checking out with us,” Jackson said. “That’s the only reason I get my rebounds. I had (the ball) taken away from me a few times, but I knew I had to check out. I was a little winded. It was a little hard to breathe, but I pushed through.”
“Rhiannan is amazing,” Veroneau said. “She’s so tough. She’s an inspiration to everybody. The intensity and hard work she brings, I’m so happy to have been on the team with her for four years.”
“Rhiannan wasn’t feeling well,” Salway added. “She missed practiced Saturday. She probably wouldn’t have come to school today if we didn’t have a game. I wasn’t planning on using her much. She used her energy wisely. She’s so important on the boards for us. She’s always known how to get position. Strength-wise, she does a good job.”
Waynflete had 14 turnovers and was 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
Kents Hill got 23 points and eight rebounds from the very impressive Grenier. Curnin added 10 points (and 15 boards) and Doyle had six points and eight rebounds. The Huskies committed 24 turnovers and shot 9-of-16 from the charity stripe.
The Western C tournament begins in five weeks. Waynflete (third behind Madison and Boothbay in the Heal Points standings at press time) is back in action Tuesday at home versus winless Yarmouth. The Flyers then go to Traip, Western B contender Wells, Hebron, NYA and Kents Hill, before closing at home versus Greater Portland Christian School and Sacopee.
With the exception of its visit to Wells, Waynflete will be heavily favored in all of its games. The Flyers plan to use the rest of the schedule to continuing their improvement and being in optimal position when action moves to the Augusta Civic Center for the Western C tournament.
“We can’t let up on anyone, no matter the competition,” Jackson said. “We have to play our best.”
“We have to continue working hard and realize anybody can beat anyone on a given night,” Veroneau said. “We’ve worked toward this for four years. This is our last year together. We’re all on the same page. We know we have to put in the hard work. Brandon has made practices really intense and had us work on things we’ll see in Augusta.”
“We hope to continue to get better,” Salway added. “We still have time left. We need to get better at finishing, on-ball defense. I think we still give up penetration a little too much and need to work on defensive rebounding quite a bit. Finishing around the hoop. We’re trying to get better every day, whether it’s practice or a game. It’s a motivated group. The closer we get to February, the more they’ll feel it, I hope. We learned last year that where you finish doesn’t matter, it’s what you do when you get there. It’s just the color of uniform. We want to finish as high as we can, but if we finish fourth and have to play a prelim, I wouldn’t be totally disappointed by that.”
KH- 5 7 10 17- 39
W- 23 12 17 12- 64
KH- Grenier 8-7-23, Curnin 4-2-10, Doyle 3-0-6
W- M. Veroneau 11-0-28, Jackson 4-1-10, Fernandez 3-0-7, Harwood 3-0-7, Giguere 2-0-5, C. Veroneau 1-1-3, Lyall 1-0-2, A. Veroneau 1-0-2
W (10) M. Veroneau 6, Fernandez, Giguere, Harwood, Jackson
KH (42) Curnin 15, Doyle, Grenier 8, Tortorella 5, Forsythe 3, Torres 2, Bentley 1
W (41) Jackson 15, M. Veroneau 10, Harwood, C. Veroneau 4, Lyall 3, Fernandez, Wasserman 2, A. Veroneau 1
KH (4) Tortorella 2, Doyle, Grenier 1
W (17) M. Veroneau 7, Harwood 3, Fernandez, Giguere, Jackson 2, Wasserman 1