After a week of drama and triumph at the Augusta Civic Center, the championship dream ended for the Waynflete girls’ basketball team amid a flurry of missed shots Saturday evening in the Western Class C Final.
The second-ranked Flyers certainly had their chances against No. 1 Madison, but made only 9-of-50 field goal attempts and went without a point in the second period, digging a hole that was too steep to overcome in a 37-23 setback.
Waynflete’s season ends at 15-4, while the Bulldogs advanced to battle Calais in the Class C state final Saturday.
“We played really hard, especially in the second half, but you can’t do much when shots don’t go in,” said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “We didn’t just miss outside shots, but layups, free throws. I don’t know if just ran out of gas.”
A year ago, an upperclassmen-laden Waynflete squad made it to the Western C Final for the first time, then dropped a two-point heartbreaker to Jay.
This winter, the Flyers boasted just one senior, Morgan Woodhouse, but what a special talent she was. Woodhouse’s dominance all over the floor, combined the with the emergence of freshmen Catherine and Martha Veroneau and steady junior contributors Sam Oakland and Lydie Stegemann, kept Waynflete near the top of the standings. The Flyers won 13 of 16 regular season contests and garnered the No. 2 seed for the tournament. Last Tuesday, Waynflete fended off No. 7 St. Dom’s’ upset bid, 44-40, then, Thursday, the Flyers rallied for a scintillating 43-37 overtime victory over No. 3 Hall-Dale.
Madison went 14-4 in the regular season, then had little trouble with No. 8 Traip (55-35) or No. 5 Dirigo (40-24) in its first two playoff tests. The Flyers and Bulldogs had only met once before, in the 2006 preliminary round, a 71-32 Madison victory.
Saturday, Waynflete finally met its match.
The Flyers actually started out shooting well, making four of their first seven attempts, then things went sour and stayed that way.
Twenty-six seconds into the contest, the Bulldogs broke the ice on a layup from junior Jen Brown. With 6:56 to play in the first period, senior Bianca Stoutamyer sank a 3 and it was 5-0. Waynflete got its first points from Stegemann on a long jumper 21 seconds later, but senior Ali Russell answered with a pair of foul shots for Madison and a 7-2 lead.
The Flyers then got a short jumper from Woodhouse, a free throw from Martha Veroneau and a layup from Woodhouse to make it 7-7. Senior Andrea Smith answered with a layup for the Bulldogs before Woodhouse scored on a driving layup with 2:20 to play in the opening stanza, tying the score one final time at 9-9.
Waynflete wouldn’t score a point the rest of the first half and wouldn’t register another field goal until near the end of the third period.
Madison went on top to stay with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter on a putback from Russell. Stoutamyer added a 3 with time winding down and the Bulldogs took a 14-9 advantage to the second.
There, the Flyers missed all seven shot attempts and gave the ball away four times.
The Bulldogs didn’t do much offensively either, but did stretch their lead to 22-9 at halftime thanks to a short jumper from sophomore Lyndsay Weese, jump shots from Brown and Russell and a layup from Smith.
Madison then did its best to invite Waynflete back into the game in the third period, giving the ball away eight times, but the Flyers couldn’t capitalize.
Neither team scored for four minutes in the third. After six more missed shots and a turnover, the Flyers finally snapped their 14 minute, 21 second drought and the 13-0 Bulldogs run when Stegemann sank two foul shots with 3:59 to go. Nine seconds later, Catherine Veroneau had a chance to draw her team closer, but she missed two free throws. Woodhouse then grabbed the board, was fouled and made two shots to cut the deficit to nine.
Madison ended its 5:14 drought, when, after five turnovers and a miss to start the half, it got a jumper from senior Marlisa Emerson with 1:44 remaining to make it 26-13.
Finally, with 1:35 to go, Woodhouse scored on a leaner, ending a run of 17 straight missed field goal attempts and an improbable 16:45 spell without a basket from the floor (more than two quarters).
“(Madison) did a good job on defense, but we had open shots,” Salway lamented.
In the waning seconds, Emerson made a layup for the Bulldogs, but a jumper from freshman Amelia Mitchell pulled Waynflete back within 11, 26-15, heading for the fourth.
After a Smith layup for the Bulldogs, a spinner from Woodhouse with 7 minutes to play made it 30-19. With 3:34 left, Woodhouse made a layup after a steal and the Flyers were within nine, 30-21, but they would draw no closer. After Smith missed three free throws in a 21-second span, Madison got some breathing room when Brown sank a jumper, ending a 4:53 drought.
With 2 minutes to go, Russell made two free throws and the lead was 13, 34-21. With 1:36 left, a Woodhouse layup proved to be not only the final points of her stellar career, but also the last that Waynflete would manage this winter. A pair of free throws from Russell and one from junior Melinda Farrell ended the scoring and gave the Bulldogs the 37-23 win.
“I really like (Madison),” Salway said. “It’s a classy program. Coach (Al) Veneziano gets the most out of his kids. They did what we expected.”
The Flyers finished 0-for-15 from 3-point land, 9-for-35 from two-point range and 5-of-14 from the line, but even after that frustrating performance, Salway found nothing but positives in regard to the season.
“We improved by leaps and bounds,” Salway said. “Individually, every single kid improved a great deal. Morgan told the team after the game that at the beginning, she wasn’t sure what kind of season we’d have, but the kids stepped up. Playing in a regional final with a senior-laden team last year was quite an accomplishment. For this year’s team to do it was amazing.
“I feel like we’re starting to chip away at the Mountain Valley Conference dominance. There used to be a staggering difference. We’ve won five playoff games against MVC teams the past three years and have gotten to two regional finals in a row.”
The Bulldogs (17-4) were led by 12 points from Russell, six apiece from Brown, Smith and Stoutamyer, four from Emerson, two from Reese and one from Farrell. Madison had 17 turnovers (14 in the second half) and made just 9-of-16 foul shot attempts, but had enough to advance to its second state final in three seasons.
For Waynflete, Woodhouse bowed out with a game-high 16 points.
“She’s been great,” Salway said. “She had a different role every year. She was good as a freshman. As a sophomore, she was an athlete playing basketball. The last two years, she’s taken her game to a whole new level. She wowed people at the Augusta Civic Center with how dominant she is defending, blocking, stealing. They triple-teamed her, but she still put up 16, 16 and 26 in three games.
“This year, she’s really had to be a leader. She’s always led by example. She was a tremendous active leader this year. She scored over 1,000 points in her career, made the McDonald’s All-Star team, was nominated for the Bob Butler Award and is our first Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist.”
Stegemann added four points, Mitchell had two and Martha Veroneau one. The Flyers also suffered from 15 turnovers.
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While the loss of Woodhouse will be enormous, the experience Waynflete gained this winter will be crucial going forward. If this group of returning players continues to improve the way they have over the past three months, it won’t be long until the Flyers are back in this spot.
“We hope to continue to build,” Salway said. “I was glad to see some middle school girls at the games. This was a good experience. We’ve got a great freshman group, who, if they stay together, hope to finally kick down the door. I was very excited about next year on the bus ride home.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org