PORTLAND—The Waynflete girls’ basketball team knows time is running out on its special season, but the Flyers are far from being finished.
Tuesday afternoon, in its first playoff test, Waynflete served notice to the rest of the Western Class C field that it plans to make life miserable on its foes and make them pay for every mistake.
Hosting No. 13 Carrabec in a preliminary round contest, the fourth-ranked Flyers took a few minutes to hit their stride, but they began turning the Cobras over time and again and quickly seized control.
Waynflete took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and stretched an 18-9 lead after one period to 33 points at halftime thanks to a 26-2 second period spurt. Another bout of dominance in quarter three ended all doubt and even though the Flyers struggled down the stretch, they had no trouble finishing off their 73-36 victory.
Senior standout Martha Veroneau had a game-high 22 points, senior Rhiannan Jackson and junior Leigh Fernandez added 12 apiece and Waynflete forced a whopping 41 turnovers as it improved to 16-3, ending Carrabec’s season at 5-14 in the process, setting up a quarterfinal round date with No. 5 Dirigo in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 7 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I think it was a little bit of a slow start, but our press was the difference,” said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “Our tempo made them uncomfortable.”
Waynflete, a regional finalist last year, passed almost every test this winter, only dropping close decisions to Western B playoff teams Lake Region (the reigning regional champion), Cape Elizabeth and Wells. The Flyers finished with the four seed, but are viewed by many as a team capable of going all the way.
Carrabec, meanwhile, was the last team into the Western C field.
The Flyers and Cobras had no history prior to Tuesday.
Waynflete didn’t want to let the lower seed hang around and after a shaky first few minutes, took care of its first foe.
Carrabec broke the scoring ice when junior Jessica Vaillancourt made a 3 57 seconds in. After the Flyers tied the score on a bank shot from Veroneau and a free throw from sophomore Julianna Harwood, junior Mercedes Welch made a layup to give the Cobras a 5-3 advantage, which proved to be their final lead.
Jackson tied the score with a layup, then put Waynflete on top for good with a free throw with 4:39 to go in the first period.
The next time down, Harwood banked home a 3 and Veroneau added a 3-ball to make it 12-5.
After the Cobras ended the 9-0 run with a layup from sophomore Emma Pluntke, Harwood set up Veroneau for a layup after a steal. Pluntke made another layup, but a putback from Veroneau and a Jackson layup (from Veroneau) gave the Flyers an 18-9 advantage.
“It was a little nervewracking,” Veroneau said. “It was a playoff atmosphere. Our fan section was nice. I hope they come up to Augusta. We feed off that. Starting strong with our press was critical.”
“The kids were a little tight initially, playing a new opponent with all the money being on the table,” Salway said.
Waynflete poured it on in a decisive second quarter.
First Jackson putback her own shot. Veroneau did the same, Jackson made a layup after a steal, Veroneau stole the ball and set up her younger sister, freshman Anne Veroneau, for a layup, Jackson drained a 3 and with 5:06 to go in the half, Martha Veroneau made a layup after a steal for a 31-9 lead.
The run wasn’t over as senior Catherine Veroneau scored on a putback and sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer made a layup.
Finally, with 2:42 left before halftime, Carrabec got a layup from freshman Mickayla Willette to end the 21-0 surge and a 6 minute, 3 second drought.
That would be the Cobras’ lone basket of the quarter. Anne Veroneau and junior Leigh Fernandez answered with layups, Fernandez hit a 3 and Gray-Bauer made a layup for a 44-11 halftime lead.
In the first 16 minutes, Martha Veroneau had 13 points, Jackson 12 and the Flyers forced a whopping 26 Carrabec turnovers.
Early in the third quarter, Willette hit a free throw, but Veroneau made a 3, Harwood hit a jumper after a steal and Gray-Bauer made a layup after a steal to make it 51-12.
Freshman Hannah Atwood countered with a layup for the Cobras, but Anne Veroneau made a 3. After a left-handed layup from Atwood, Fernandez made a 3, Fernandez made a layup, Martha Veroneau made a driving layup and hit a pullup jumper, Fernandez made a layup after a steal and Veroneau scored on a putback to push the lead to 51, 67-16.
Carrabec got two foul shots from senior Megan Cole, but Harwood knocked down a 3. Freshman Liberty Chestnut hit a jumper for the visitors, but that only brought them within 50, 70-20, after three quarters.
Waynflete went exclusively with reserves in the final stanza and the Cobras carried play, but sophomore Dana Peirce brought the curtain down on the win with a late 3 as the Flyers prevailed, 73-36.
“I’m glad to get the prelim game out of the way,” Veroneau said. “Going in, we talked about three things: intensity, effort and confidence. We communicated well on our press and pushed it after steals and rebounds. We did what we wanted to do.”
Martha Veroneau didn’t just have a game-high 22 points, she also had nine rebounds, 10 steals, six assists and a blocked shot.
Fernandez (five assists, five steals) and Jackson (six rebounds, two steals) both had 12 points.
“Rhiannan had the best first half of her life,” Salway said.
Harwood (eight rebounds, four steals) had nine points, Anne Veroneau seven, Gray-Bauer six, Peirce three and Catherine Veroneau (seven rebounds, one steal) two.
The Flyers made nine 3-pointers.
Carrabec was paced by Atwood’s six points. Willette had five, while Chestnut, Cole and Pluntke all had four. The Cobras made just one 3-pointer (to nine for Waynflete) and were ultimately doomed by 41 turnovers.
Waynflete doesn’t play Dirigo (15-4 after a preliminary round win over Sacopee) in the regular season. The Flyers handled Dirigo, 71-36, in the 2008 preliminary round. The Cougars present a bigger challenge, but Waynflete knows if it plays its game, it will continue to march on.
“We don’t have much info on (Dirigo), but we’re going in confident,” Veroneau said. “We’re strong personnel-wise and we’re strong coaching-wise.”
“Dirigo has talented kids,” said Salway. “They play a mix of man and zone (defenses). Like us, they like to press. They pound it inside more than we do. We take it one game at a time, but I think our confidence in playing at the Augusta Civic Center is a big difference. We have to keep playing aggressively at both ends of the floor. (My girls) want to extend the season. More than wanting to win, they don’t want the season to end.”
C- 9 2 9 16- 36
W- 18 26 26 3- 73
C- H. Atwood 3-0-6, Willette 2-1-5, Chestnut 2-0-4, Cole 0-4-4, Pluntke 2-0-4, Vaillancourt 1-0-3, B. Atwood 1-0-2, Lewis 1-0-2, Rugh 1-0-2, Stevens 1-0-2, Welch 1-0-2
W- M. Veroneau 10-0-22, Fernandez 5-0-12, Jackson 5-1-12, Harwood 3-1-9, A. Veroneau 3-0-7, Gray-Bauer 3-0-6, Peirce 1-0-3, C. Veroneau 1-0-2
C (1) Vaillancourt
W (9) Fernandez, Harwood, M. Veroneau 2, Jackson, Peirce, A. Veroneau 1