STANDISH–Windham staged a jawdropping comeback at Bonny Eagle on Saturday night, Dec. 29: After the Scots charged onto the court like women possessed – after they utterly dominated the first half – the Eagles doubled-down on defense and methodically clawed back on offense. When two key Bonny Eaglers fouled out late in the fourth, Alanna Joyce managed the seize the lead for Windham. 46-43 the final.
Meghan Hoffses led the Eagles’ winning effort with 14, while Hannah Talon had 12 and Tara Flanders 11.
“We got out of the flow of our offense in the third and fourth quarter,” Bonny Eagle head coach Scott Regan said. “Windham’s 6-0 for a reason, and they’ve got scoring everywhere. They did a great job.”
“I told the girls after the game,” Windham head coach Brody Artes said, “that we have a huge bull’s-eye on our back right now. With the amount of wins that we have, we’re a big Heal-Point win. Coaches look at our scores, and tonight’s a perfect example. Coach Regan’s probably like, ‘Listen, yeah they’re 5-0, coming into the game, but they’ve all been close games, and we can beat them.'”
“I think a lot of teams come into games seeing that we’re, now, 6-0, we have a huge target on our backs,” Hoffses said. “I don’t think we were ready for [Bonny Eagle] to come at us that hard out of the gate.”
“Normally, we’ve come out kind of flat,” Flanders said. “It takes us a little while afte the second half to amp it up. We’re definitely working on that.”
If boys games typically play out more aggressively than girls games do – with all that free-flowing testosterone, the elbows tend to fly faster and harder – Saturday’s matchup played out like two boys games rolled into one: Between them, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Scots amassed 40 or more fouls in four quarters, both teams hitting double-bonus territory in both halves.
Seriously: It was like the Battle of Leipzig out there.
“It’s always a dogfight when we come play Bonny Eagle,” Flanders said. “The crowd definitely doesn’t help, because we’ve got both sides, Windham and Bonny Eagle, chirping at us. Sometimes, stuff on the court gets a little messy, with girls saying stuff to each other.”
Bonny Eagle cranked the action up to 11 in the opening seconds, seeming to catch Windham off-guard. The Scots began with a steal, Mackenzie Emery ending up with possession: Emery can do plenty of damage herself, and in fact finished the evening with 14, but her most impressive early efforts came in the form of assists. Emery fed Sam Averill once for 2-0, then again, following an offensive rebound, for 4-0. She pivoted from Averill to Emma Abbott next, hitting Abbott with a long feed, all the way upcourt, following a defensive rebound. Abbott made it 6-0.
“We were working hard,” Hoffses said of Windham’s inability to get on the board. “We were getting the shots – they just weren’t falling.”
“In the beginning, we took [Bonny Eagle] a little bit lighter,” Flanders said, “because in the past, they haven’t been as good. And because of their record…But Mackenzie Emery came out and hit a couple of threes; it took us off-guard.”
Taylor Johnson nailed a three for 9-0 and Averill one of two from the line for an even 10-0; Emery then hurled another long volley upcourt for Averill, who dished across underneath for Abbott. Abbott turned a rough spin-move to throw off a clinging Windham defender and convert the layup. 12-0.
“I was anticipating a lot of intensity, a lot of pressure overall,” Artes said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, early on especially. We had some turnovers that were forced by Bonny Eagle’s defense.”
The Scots clearly wanted the game, and the Eagles clearly had no answer at the ready. They finally got on the board when Talon hit one of two frees with under two minutes remaining in the first, but it was a meager, whimpering response in the face of Bonny Eagle’s unslakable bloodthirst. Windham showed further signs of fire when Hoffses strip-stole a ball from Avianna Rath and notched the team’s first field goal; still, they remained down 12-3 at the end of the quarter.
The Scots barrelled ahead to 19-3 at the start of the second: Emery sat down an Eagles defender with fancy footwork, then dished to Averill along the baseline for a three; Emery next hit a pair of frees, as well as a two. Hoffses finally interrupted the run, draining a long three for 19-6, but Emery immediately parried, inbounding cross-court to Johnson for 21-6. Windham gradually picked up a billow of steam as the quarter wound down, with Flanders and Emily Drummond adding twos and Talon a three from practically the dark side of the moon. Nevertheless, Bonny Eagle held a commanding, 26-13 advantage at the break.
“Our coach definitely gave it to us when he called a timeout,” Hoffses said. “But we have a lot of heart on this team, and we wanted the win really badly. We weren’t going to give up.”
“Even after the first four minutes, where we were down 12-0, if you take those first four minutes away,” Artes said, “it would’ve been a 10-point game. We did a much better job playing them at the end of the first, into the second. The second half was fantastic: much more team basketball on the defensive end.”
Once more unto the breach the sides went in the third, now matching each other almost blow-for-blow: While Bonny Eagle put up 11 in the stretch, Windham put up 12. Key to Windham’s renewed life was their defense, which they doubled-down on even harder as the fourth dawned.
The fourth, then, is when the Eagles really disguised their fairer natures, stiffened their sinews and summoned up their blood. On defense, they repelled the Scots for long stretches and even forced Emery into back-to-back five-second violations. On offense, meanwhile, Hoffses opened the quarter with a three-point play.
“We just needed to keep our heads, to stay positive and play together,” Talon said of her girls’ efforts to flip the score. “We were mad. We really wanted this game; we didn’t want to lose.”
Emery next coaxed a quick pair of fouls out of Hoffses – Windham’s sixth and seventh fouls as a team, meaning the Scots now entered bonus territory. Emery went to the line, hitting one of her one-and-one. 38-28. Emily Bartash and Averill, though, missed on Bonny Eagle’s next free-throw chances, while Talon knocked down a Windham three. 38-31.
“My goal this season is not to force anything,” Talon said of her double-digit performance in the face of heavy Bonny Eagle defense. “Just to let everything come natural, and rely on my teammates step up. That’s what they did tonight.”
“We knew that Hannah was going to get her points,” Regan said. “We made a concerted effort to take her out. And we wanted to try to cut the floor off, and try to bury that middle and take away that inside. I thought we did a decent job with it, but still it didn’t go exactly as we hoped.”
Joyce hit a two, and Averill answered from the line; Emery hashed a couple frees, and Flanders answered with a three-point play. Drummond added another pair of frees after that – on Averill’s fifth foul, no less. Averill, a clutch part of the Scots’ lineup, retired to the sidelines.
Shortly – with 2:47 left on the clock – Talon planted her feet brilliantly with Emery, in possession, on the move towards her; Emery collided with Talon, sending her sprawling to the floor. The offensive foul was Emery’s fifth, and she joined Averill on the bench.
Emery’s and Averill’s exits from the action highlighted a weak spot for the Scots: Their bench isn’t especially deep at present. To replace the aforementioned girls with less-experienced players in a tight melee was asking a lot from those players, – not to mention the basketball gods – and it just didn’t work out in Bonny Eagle’s favor this time around. In contrast, even when Hannah Talon’s little sister – Sarah, an up-and-coming talent – dropped out of the fray with a foot injury, Windham had ready replacements to pick from.
“Both of them picked up their fourth foul in the third quarter,” Regan said of Emery and Averill. “It’s a case of how do we settle? Where do put them in? We know Windham’s got a lot more depth than we do…I ended the game with a freshman point guard. It’s the most varsity minutes she’s had.”
“It was important for us to notice that we had the advantage,” Hoffses said of the changes to Bonny Eagle’s lineup. “And just keep our composure and play our game.”
Flanders followed Emery’s departure with a three, slicing Windham’s deficit to 42-41; momentarily, Meghan Champagne – a Bonny Eagle freshman now on the floor – missed a pair of frees. Joyce, an elder stateswoman, drained a two and, holy smokes, overturned the lead in her girls’ favor: 43-42.
With under a minute to play, the Scots had little choice but to foul. Hoffses went to the line, and hit one. The Scots regained possession, but Abbott, crashing along the baseline in hopes of manufacturing a layup, couldn’t control an incoming pass, which sailed out of bounds.
Joyce hit a free, 45-42, and Bartash answered with one of her own. That was Flanders fifth foul, and she exited the game – but her decision to commit the infraction was strategic, as mere seconds hovered on the clock. Windhamite Mikayla Baiguy then closed out the game with a free: 46-43 the final.
“It’s all on me,” Regan said. “I should’ve taken a timeout early, when they made their run; I just didn’t think it would help us to take us out of our flow.”
Windham – where the demons dwell! – moves to 6-0 on the season; the Eagles currently hold the No. 1 slot in AA North. The team welcomes Massabesic on New Year’s Eve. They travel to South Portland on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Bonny Eagle slips to 2-4 this winter. The Scots may be ranked seventh in AA South at the moment, but their borderline-inconceivable manhandling of Windham through the first half on Saturday simply attests to their capacity to take on top squads. They’ll get another shot at a W on Wednesday, Jan. 2, when they visit Deering. They drop in on Biddeford two days later.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
The ball squirts away from Scot Sam Averill.
Meghan Hoffses dogs Avianna Rath, on the attack for Bonny Eagle.
Emma Abbott takes to the air, Kayla Gorman hot on her heels.
Mackenzie Emery drives for the net, dogged by Sarah Talon.
Mackenzie Emery works for a layup.
Taylor Johnson pulls the trigger on a Scots shot.
Alanna Joyce fires off a shot for the Eagles.
Meghan Hoffses ascends toward the net.
Meghan Hoffses notched 14 points for the Eagles in their win.
Eagle Tara Flanders and Scot Sam Averill do battle in midair.
Hannah Talon tallied 11 points in Windham’s staggering comeback victory over Bonny Eagle.
Bonny Eagler Emily Bartash and Windhamite Tara Flanders go shoulder-to-shoulder.
The Eagles line up together for the National Anthem.