GRAY—Jordan Grant knocked down 24 in the Lady Patriots’ home bout last Thursday, Dec. 21, a matchup vs. Poland that should – on paper, at least – have been closer than it was. Comparatively young, G-NG upended the more experienced Lady Knights 47-37, seizing the lead early and never relinquishing it.
“Poland retuned their starting five,” said Patriots head coach Mike Andreasen, who waved goodbye to four of his own starters after they claimed the 2017 Class B crown. “So if you said, after last year’s season, that we’d beat Poland by double-digits this year, I would’ve said, ‘You’re full of something.’ And we did. So the kids are looking good.”
As mentioned, G-NG jumped on top at the game’s very outset, and maintained the advantage across its full 32 minutes. Grant sank the team’s first two, and Bri Jordan followed her up, nailing a three and a pair of frees. Jordan then dished up-court to Mikaela Ryan, who relayed the ball to Eliza Hotham underneath for a lay-up and a 9-0 upper-hand.
Clearly, the Patriots were off to a rip-roaring start – and not just offensively, defensively as well.
“Defense is a lot of effort,” Andreasen said. “You don’t need to be the most skilled player to be a good defender, you just need to have a lot of heart and a lot of desire, and our kids have those. We’re still learning, we’re still getting better, but if you want to learn – that’s half the battle.”
In particular, Jordan’s coverage of Poland standout Nathalie Theriault looked rock-solid. But, per Andreasen, that’s only to be expected from Jordan, who’s covered many of Maine’s best players in recent years. “Bri – last year, we had her play Kolleen Bouchard; we’ve had her play Emily Esposito…It’s nothing new for her…If you said to me, ‘Give me one lock-down defender, of anyone you’ve seen,’ she’s pretty high on the list.”
(Bouchard plays for Houlton, whom G-NG bested in last year’s State Final. Esposito, meanwhile, played for mighty Gorham, who took both the 2016 and 2017 Class A titles.)
Poland got on the board next, Theriault dropping in two from the line after Jordan incurred the Patriots’ first infraction, a block. Ally Gagne soon added a three for the Knights as well, but G-NG were already well on their way. 12-5 after one.
Both sides tallied 10 in the second quarter – meaning the Patriots held cleanly onto the seven-point lead they’d earlier established. In the third, G-NG extended their advantage, outpacing Poland 13-8. Grant led the charge, scoring six, but Ryan also contributed four, Madysen West two and Jordan a free.
In the fourth, the Knights actually put up more points than the Patriots – but only by a two, a mere two, not nearly the double-digits they needed to put up, if they hoped to come back. In fact, G-NG opened the stretch with a run, Grant, Hotham and Alexa Thayer combining to push the Patriots’ lead all the way out to, at one point, 42-24.
Poland closed strong, though. The Knights chewed through a respectable chunk of their deficit in garbage time to set the final score at 47-37.
Beyond Grant’s 24, Jordan and Ryan both contributed six. Hotham finished with four, Thayer with three, and West and Chelsea Davis with two apiece.
“Jordan, right now…she’s getting a lot of looks because – in transition,” Andreasen said. “I think she’s the fastest kid we’ve got. Maybe Bri? I coach softball; last year, in the preseason, we were doing some races. We have some pretty fast kids on the softball team…and Jordy didn’t just win, Jordy won going away.”
“The kids – Bri, Mady West, Alexa – did a great job finding her,” Andreasen said of Grant. “And that’s the best offense you can do, that fast-break offense. Jordy gets a lot of points that way. But she’s also so much better with the ball. Last year, she was in Skye’s (Conley) shadow; this year, she gets to step out…she’s probably averaging around 20.”
First-ranked G-NG, now 3-1, travels to Yarmouth on Friday night, Dec. 29.
“You know what’s nice,” Andreasen said, “is the kids – we lost the opener at Lake Region…and since that loss – it stung – the kids have played good basketball since then. It’s been the gauntlet. We had York after Lake Region, we had Freeport, now we have Poland – all the top teams. To be 3-1 at the break, we’re pretty happy.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Jordan Grant led the Pats with 24 points.
Alexa Thayer drives toward the net for G-NG.
Eliza Hotham lofts a ball toward the basket.