PORTLAND—While the Waynflete Flyers feature one of the finest girls’ basketball players in the state, senior Martha Veroneau, collectively, this team is something special.
The Flyers’ depth and balance were certainly on display Wednesday afternoon.
Hosting Greater Portland Christian School, in its penultimate game of the regular season, which doubled as a “Think Pink” fundraiser for the Maine Cancer Society (even the ball was pink), Waynflete came out with an absolutely oppressive defensive effort, forcing 16 first quarter turnovers, and never looked back.
The Flyers led, 14-2, after one period and pushed that advantage to 36-7 at halftime. Waynflete rolled from there and improved to 14-3 with a 64-23 victory, dropping the Lions to 11-5.
Veroneau was the game’s high scorer with 18 points, but she had plenty of help. Nine Flyers scored and junior reserve Louise Lyall’s stat line was symbolic of the team effort as she had six points, eight rebounds and a couple of steals. Waynflete forced 38 turnovers and once again served notice that it will not settle for anything shy of its goal of a first-ever Class C state title.
“We didn’t shoot the ball the way we’d like to, but we came around and did what we needed to do,” said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. “It was a chance for other girls to show they’ve improved. We were aggressive with the ball.”
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. The Flyers responded with wins at Fryeburg (53-39) and Old Orchard Beach (50-38), at home over Kents Hills (64-39) and Yarmouth (58-37) and at Traip (67-23). Waynflete then dropped a close 57-49 decision at Wells before bouncing back with one-sided victories at Hebron (81-20), NYA (75-25) and Kents Hill (69-40). In the win over Kents Hill, Veroneau passed her older sister Margaret’s program benchmark of 1,280 career points.
“I texted Margaret right after,” Veroneau said. “I said,’ Hey Margaret, guess who’s the all-time leading scorer?!’ The 1,000 mark was really my goal going into the season. As the season progressed, I realized I could go for the record as well. Obviously, the team’s success comes first, but it’s a nice accolade.”
GPCS has been one of the more competitive teams in Western D this winter and is playoff bound. The Lions, a quarterfinalist last season, won their first five games and seven of their first eight and entered the game on a two-game win streak.
The teams also met each of the past three seasons, with the Flyers prevailing at home in each case, 58-25 in 2009-10, 52-39 two years ago and 59-25 last winter.
Wednesday, Waynflete imposed its will from the get-go.
A Veroneau layup after a steal 30 seconds in put the Flyers on top to stay. Veroneau added a 3 before GPCS got on the board courtesy a layup from Clarissa Jones.
The Flyers then erupted for a 17-0 run to seize control.
A pullup jumper from Veroneau got the fun started. Sparkplug sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer came off the bench to make a layup, senior Rhiannan Jackson sank a 3 and Gray-Bauer made a layup after a steal to give Waynflete a 14-2 lead after one quarter.
In those eight minutes, the Lions gave the ball away a whopping 16 times.
Early in the second stanza, Gray-Bauer made another layup, Veroneau set up her baby sister, Anne, for a layup, Jackson made a layup after a steal and sophomore Julianna Harwood made a layup to make it 22-2.
With 5:23 remaining in the half, Jones hit a foul shot to end a 7 minute, 29 second drought for the Lions.
Harwood answered with a layup, but Elaine Beech hit a jumper for GPCS. After Martha Veroneau made a 3, Beech set up Jones for a layup. Freshman Arianna Giguere sparked a 9-0 half-ending surge with a layup, junior Leigh Fernandez made a layup, Harwood took a pass from Fernandez for yet another layup and a Martha Veroneau 3-pointer gave Waynflete a commanding 36-7 advantage at the break.
The Flyers’ starters stayed in the game in the third period and stretched the lead.
Jackson started the half with a layup. After GPCS got a putback from Mariah Foss, Jackson scored on a puback. Jones made a layup, but Harwood converted an old-fashioned three-point play (putback, foul, free throw) and with 3:58 left in the third, Veroneau took a pass from Fernandez for a layup and career points 1,300 and 1,301.
The next time down the floor, Veroneau returned the favor, setting up Fernandez for a layup. Veroneau then hit a 3 for her final points. After Jones made a free throw, Lyall made her presence felt with a putback. Beech put home a shot for the Lions, but in the waning seconds, Fernandez found junior Emily Wasserman for a 3 and Waynflete’s lead was 55-14 with eight minutes to go.
Down the stretch, the Flyers played a lineup of exclusively bench players, but there wasn’t much dropoff.
After Jones opened the fourth period with two free throws, Lyall took a pass from sophomore Dana Peirce and made a layup. Jones countered with a layup, but Anne Veroneau scored on a putback. After Erin Robinson made a jumper for GPCS and Jones scored on a putback, Lyall made a layup.
“I’ve played since freshman year and I feel like any way I can help out in practice or a game makes me happy,” Lyall said. “I try to go hard in practice so the starters get a sense of what (a game is) like. Anything I can do is really worth it for me. I’ve been really working on improving, especially on stuff like rebounding. I have a little height, which is something we don’t have a lot of on this team.”
“Louise has improved so much,” said Veroneau. “Her rebounding and all-around game.”
Kimberlee Dawson countered with a foul shot for the Lions, but Giguere made it official with a 3 and the Flyers put the finishing touches on their 64-23 triumph.
Martha Veroneau (who now has 1,304 career points) made seven field goals, including four 3s, for her game-high 18 points. Harwood and Jackson each had nine points, Gray-Bauer and Lyall had six apiece, Giguere added five, Fernandez and Anne Veroneau four each and Wasserman three.
Waynflete had a 44-41 rebounding advantage, keyed by 10 from Jackson, eight from Lyall and five from Giguere. Half of the Flyers’ total came from bench players. Waynflete forced 38 turnovers and managed 26 steals. Martha Veroneau had eight and Fernandez five. The Flyers only turned the ball over five times and made 1-of-3 foul shots and 7-of-37 3-pointers.
For the Lions, Jones led the way with 14 points and a dazzling 17 rebounds. Beech had four points, seven boards and two blocked shots. Foss (six boards) and Robinson both had two points, while Dawson added one.
In addition to its 38 turnovers, GPCS was just 5-of-15 from the free throw line.
While GPCS looks like the No. 5 seed in Western D, Waynflete isn’t sure yet where it will end up in Western C.
The Flyers moved up to fourth with the victory, but probably can’t make the jump to third, which would give them a preliminary round bye. Waynflete hosts Sacopee in its regular season finale, which is also Senior Night, Thursday.
Then, the Flyers will officially focus their attention on where it’s been for awhile.
The tournament and bringing home a Gold Ball.
“I’ve been looking forward to (the tournament) since last year’s playoffs,” Lyall said. “It’s such a good time. We have high expectations. It will be nice to see what we can do.”
“I think overall, we’re happy with the regular season,” Veroneau said. “The losses to Cape and Wells were tough. We felt we could have won if we played better. A couple of our recent games have been slow. I feel like we’ve had the fever to get to the playoffs. We’ve had the tournament as a goal since last year. We have to keep coming out hard. The team is getting so much better. We watched last year’s Hall-Dale (regional final) game and even though it was hard to watch, we realized how much everybody’s improved.
“We don’t really mind a prelim. It’s an extra game and it gets us ready for the playoffs. We’re just ready to move on. We have the drive to go far this year. It’s scary going in knowing it’s one-and-done, but at the same time, we’ve worked for this for four years. We’re going to leave it all on the court. We’ll give it all we have. I think this group has the potential to do something great.”
“We’d like to have a couple of those (losses) back, but we’ve learned from them,” Salway added. “Luckily, we’ve also had a lot of non-countable games that have helped us out. Games with (Class A) Lawrence, Cony, Cheverus and Scarborough. We’ve played a tough out-of-regular season schedule.
“It looks like we’re going to have a prelim. We’ll finish fourth or fifth, I think. It’s fine with us to have a prelim. There were years when I cared about our draw, but this year, it’s not about winning a game or our draw. We have bigger aspirations. It’s going to come down to execution in tight games. We’ll go (to Augusta) with the right attitude and play really aggressive. Our attitude the past couple years has been not to worry about winning or losing, just playing with no fear. That’s the key. I think we shoot better there. If we get there, we’ll have confidence. A lot of teams don’t have that. We’re very motivated. We’ve been looking forward to the tournament since last February.”
GPCS- 2 5 4 12- 23
W- 14 22 19 9- 64
GPCS- Jones 5-4-14, Beech 2-0-4, Foss 1-0-2, Robinson 1-0-2, Dawson 0-1-1
W- M. Veroneau 7-0-18, Harwood 4-1-9, Jackson 4-0-9, Gray-Bauer 3-0-6, Lyall 3-0-6, Giguere 2-0-5, Fernandez 2-0-4, A. Veroneau 2-0-4, Wasserman 1-0-3
W (7) M. Veroneau 4, Giguere, Jackson, Wasserman 1
GPCS (41) Jones 17, Beech 7, Foss 6, K. Dawson 3, A. Dawson, Ruel 2, DePeter, Ha. Hazel, Robinson 1
W (44) Jackson 10, Lyall 8, Giguere 5, Harwood, C. Veroneau, Wasserman 4, Fernandez 3, A. Veroneau, M. Veroneau 2, Gray-Bauer, Peirce 1
GPCS (4) Beech 2, A. Dawson, Robinson 1
W (26) M. Veroneau 8, Fernandez 5, Giguere, Jackson 3, Lyall, C. Veroneau 2, Gray-Bauer, Harwood, A. Veroneau 1