STANDISH—Deirdre Sanborn led the Scots past the visiting Rams for the first time in a long time on Friday night, Jan. 26, contributing 12 – including six in the decisive final quarter. The teams matched each other thrillingly through the first, second, and third, but when Gorham superstar Mackenzie Holmes fouled out in the late going, a crucial chunk of momentum went with her and Bonny Eagle was able to pull away for a hugely meaningful, 43-32 W.
Sanborn was quick to share the spotlight with her teammates. “We definitely played great defense as a team,” she said. “The bench players really stepped up – Taylor [Johnson] came off the bench for us, and helped us out a lot. Mia [Ferrante] got in foul trouble, and Mackenzie [Emery] got in foul trouble, so the rest of the players had to step up.”
“[It’s a big win,] for our program as well as just for this year,” Bonny Eagle head coach Scott Regan said. “You’re talking about a team that’s pretty much dominated our kids for years. Now, Mackenzie Holmes fouling out, that was a big piece.”
“She’s one of the best players in the State, if not the best player in the State,” Gorham head coach Laughn Berthiaume said of Holmes. “Certainly a player that’s very difficult to match up with. They did an excellent job – you’ve got to give credit to them. But the foul trouble certainly hurts.”
“But it’s good to be in games like this,” Berthiaume said. “You can sort of figure out what you’re made of.”
The towering Holmes won the tip-off for Gorham, who quickly settled in on the attack. The Rams moved the ball nimbly – whipping it around the perimeter – before finally delivering it to Adele Nadeau, lingering along the baseline. Nadeau (just a freshman!) promptly drained a perfect two, nabbing a little early positivity for her girls.
Scot Emma Abbott quickly answered Nadeau with a baseline two of her own – but Gorham then broke into a 7-0 run: Holmes grabbed a defensive rebound, leading to a Nadeau three (again from the baseline); Michelle Rowe added a driving two; Holmes converted her own offensive rebound into two more.
Down 9-2, and looking out of rhythm – they managed to fire off shots; their shots just wouldn’t fall – the Scots took timeout.
Sanborn described the Rams’ defense: “They were running a zone, and Mackenzie Holmes was in the paint, so I knew I had to shoot over her. I had the open spot there, so I would get the ball at the foul line, turn around and do what I could.”
“At the beginning of the game, we weren’t doing so well,” Johnson said. “Our shots weren’t going in. But we stayed confident in ourselves…We all stepped up together, and worked as a team, and all did our part.”
Bonny Eagle settled in, upon returning to the court – and surged through the rest of the first, scoring six unanswered to nip at Gorham’s heels, 9-8. Emery began the run with a long two, but then incurred two rapid-fire fouls and so checked out of the action for a stretch. Abbott and Sanborn picked up the slack in her absence, each notching a two.
The action took on a different flavor in the second. Rather than the sides lambasting each other with opposing runs, they wrestled, trading a tiny lead back-and-forth. Emery – now returned – hit another long two, Rowe punched in a bucket underneath, Sanborn drained a two, Holmes a three, and so on. When Nadeau hit a baseline three – she’s something of an ace from that spot, apparently – the Rams went up 21-17. Ferrante, however, scored next, and Emery scored after her, closing out the half at 21-21.
“There was some shots that we should be able to make that we didn’t make,” Berthiaume said. “A lot of missed layups, and, I think, crucial turnovers.”
Gorham kicked off the third in style – Holmes hit a jumper from the paint – and controlled for a solid three minutes, moving ahead 27-21 on further contributions from Nadeau.
The Scots took timeout once more, and – almost as soon as play resumed – caught a huge break: Specifically, Holmes incurred her fourth foul, and had little choice but to sit. Ferrante then nailed a pair from the line and Emery turned a midcourt steal into a dish-to-Sanborn-for-two, bringing Bonny Eagle back within a deuce, 27-25.
“When both Mackenzies are in foul trouble…and you’re looking at probably both teams’ best player isn’t on the court, that makes it a little bit of a different game,” said Regan. “But our younger kids on the bench stepped up. Taylor did a great job when she came in, Makala Greene did a great job when she came in. We got great minutes out of everybody.”
“Deirdre did a great job,” Regan said. “Sam Averill did some nice things down the stretch. I can’t talk enough about each of the kids we have, and what they did. I’m just really proud.”
The Scots continued to outpace the Rams for the remainder of the third, posting four – Johnson knocked down a two, as did Sam Averill – to Gorham’s one.
29-28 Bonny Eagle at the dawn of the fourth. But while the Scots had 14 more in them, the Rams had a mere four: Gorhamite Courtney Brent opened the quarter with a two directly off the inbounds pass, bumping her girls into the lead once more, but from there Johnson hit a three and Sanborn a two for 34-30, Bonny Eagle.
Rowe next nailed one from the line, slicing Gorham’s deficit to three. But Holmes fouled out with 4:13 left on the clock, freeing up the Scots’ aggressive defense in a major way. Bonny Eagle ably shut down the Rams’ attack as the final buzzer loomed, allowing them just one more point – a Brent free – while adding nine more of their own. Sanborn notched two on a slinky drive and two on an inbounds pass; Emery hashed a couple frees; Averill logged a layup. Finally, Emery hit one more free, at 28.4 seconds, to seal the deal for the Scots at 43-32.
“No doubt that’s going to make a difference,” Regan said of Holmes fouling out. “She’s a beast inside…It doesn’t hurt when she’s not in the game; it makes it a little bit easier. They, obviously, rely on a lot of what she does, and she’s a great player. I’m not going to lie to you: We work all season on, ‘How do we get around a big?’ because we’re not big.”
“Any player that plays with foul trouble, it changes what they do,” Berthiaume said. “It takes a little bit of their aggressiveness away. [Mackenzie] averages probably two-thirds of our points.”
Emery finished with nine for Bonny Eagle, and Johnson with eight. Ferrante had six, and Averill and Abbott four apiece. Nadeau matched Sanborn’s game-high, tallying 12 of her own. Holmes had seven, Rowe five, Brent three, Jacqui Hamilton and Brittany Desjardin two each and Brooke Woodbury one.
Bonny Eagle moved to 10-3 on the result. The Scots are now ranked second in AA South. The team (not to jinx anything) hasn’t lost in nearly a month: They’ve put away eight straight challengers and remain undefeated in their own gym. South Portland ranks No. 1 at present, at 13-0.
“As tight as it is, right now, in spots two, three, four and five,” Regan said, referring to the AA South standings, “that was a huge win for us tonight…When you look at the Heals that were out today, I think there was less than five points between seeds two and five. And everybody not wanting to play on the road – that’s a huge piece this year with the playoffs. You host your first-round playoff game. When our girls heard that this summer, that was one of the first goals they set: ‘Let’s host a playoff game.’”
“This is the first winning season we’ve had in probably 20 years here,” Regan said. “In a long time…For us to get to 10 wins hasn’t happened out here in a long time.”
“It’s a great win,” Sanborn said. “A lot of momentum for us…It was one of the bigger games. It definitely feels great to prove ourselves. Some people don’t even notice Bonny Eagle at all; we’re usually one of the lower teams. Now, we’re trying to show that we can beat the big teams. Definitely, we got revenge for last season – last season, we got beat [by Gorham] by a lot.”
“This win is huge for us,” Johnson said. “It puts us in second place and it seals it so that Gorham can’t host a playoff game at home. That’s really helpful; they have to go on the road, which is always harder.”
“It’s a really good feeling to be able to step up,” Johnson said. “Since, like, Nineteen-Ninety-Something, we haven’t had this many wins, we haven’t been this good. We’re undefeated at home. So beating a team like that, that we haven’t beaten in a long time, is really amazing.”
Gorham dropped to 8-6. The Rams started 4-0 – a stretch that included a win over Scarborough, currently in third at 11-3. But they then hit a slide, faltering four consecutive times. Gorham, of course, won States in both 2016 and 2017; graduation last June claimed much of their veteran leadership, though. The team remains a force, and should never be counted out – but will need a little time to grow again.
Bonny Eagle hosted Kennebunk the following day; they traveled to Portland on Tuesday the 30th and will visit Falmouth on Friday the 2nd. Gorham traveled to Westbrook on Tuesday, and will welcome South Portland on Saturday the 3rd.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Emma Abbott lofts a layup for Bonny Eagle.
Dierdre Sanborn hovers on the attack, looking to penetrate.
BE’s Mia Ferrante and Gorham’s Jacqui Hamilton vie for the ball.
Mackenzie Emery ascends toward the net for the Scots.
Bonny Eagle’s Mackenzie Emery guards Gorham’s Brittany Desjardin.
Gorham powerhouse Mackenzie Holmes got in foul trouble midway through the third quarter vs. Bonny Eagle – including drawing a player-control foul on this approach.
Courtney Brent of Gorham chases a runaway ball.