PORTLAND – The Lady Patriots pulled out a pair of big wins against a pair of tough opponents in Thursday the 23rd’s B South Semis and Saturday the 25th’s Regional Final. G-NG offed rivals Lake Region 33-29 in the earlier round to face Lincoln Academy in the later round, where they actually prevailed by a more comfortable margin, 46-32. Both results played out at the Cross Insurance Arena.
No. 1 G-NG vs. No. 5 Lake Region
G-NG’s lackluster third quarter almost killed them vs. Lake Region on the 23rd – but their fourth quarter looked better, much better, and ultimately earned them a W. Strong defense in the waning eight minutes, a couple key Bri Jordan twos and a bevy of Skye Conley frees pushed the Patriots ahead of the Lakers and secured the 33-29 final.
“We thought it was going to be a good old-fashioned street fight between two teams that play pretty half-court defense,” Lake Region head coach Paul True said. “Honestly, the difference in the game was they were getting to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, and we weren’t, and we weren’t converting.”
“I’ve watched [Coach True] the last couple years in the playoffs – I mean, I’m a fan – and you’ve got to have a better team than his to beat him,” said G-NG head coach Mike Andreasen. “I thought we had better personnel than them; I just look at his kids and they know their strategies, they know what they’re supposed to do, they’re gamers, they hit big shots.”
“His kids are prepared,” Andreasen said. “He only had two days to prepare for us, and still did a good job.”
G-NG scrabbled to an early, 7-2 lead on an opening two by Izzy DeTroy, a pair from the line by Conley, one more from the line by Jordan Grant and a follow-up two by Alicia Dumont.
His girls clearly in need of a settling-down, True called timeout. When the teams returned to the court, Lake Region took a turn landing blows: Kristen Huntress added a two and Aisley Sturk knocked down a buzzer-beater three to tie things up 7-7 heading into the second.
Chandler True kicked off that stretch with a three-point play, giving the Lakers their first lead. The Patriots answered promptly, however: Dumont sank a three, as did – converting on a Conley steal – Jordan. Conley then bucketed a two to put G-NG out front by five again, 15-10. The Patriots would maintain the upper-hand through to the break, when the scoreboard sat 21-15.
“Our defense – that’s what I attribute it to,” said Andreasen, trying to boil the game down, “because our offense sure did not win that game. In fact, I thought we were a little hesitant. Kids not wanting to make the mistake. But in order to make the big play, you have to risk making a mistake.”
“We definitely focus on aggressive, man defense,” Conley said. “That really stems from being able to play as a team and communicating a lot. We have really good help-side defense, I think, and just man-to-man up front, Bri and Izzy, they both give their all every game and really work to shut down the top players of the other team. Being able to depend on them, and being able to depend on another teammate if our man gets by, is what really helps us be successful.”
As mentioned, the third belonged to the Lakers. Lauren Jakobs hit a pair of twos and Brooke Harriman hit one as well, tying things up yet again before Conley gave her girls the lead 23-21. Melody Millett next pulled the Lakers even on a layup drive through the key and Huntress pushed them ahead with a three off a Chandler True steal.
“The third period, we kind of lost our focus. I burned two timeouts, we had a big lead,” Andreasen said. “We said, ‘Let’s get a defensive stop, and then a basket, another stop’; I think we gave up a basket, didn’t score – so it was the exact opposite of what I said to do. They got the lead, and I almost burned a third timeout.”
“I thought we did a good job limiting their three-point opportunities,” Andreasen said. Still, as he went on to observe, the Lakers are impressive outside-shooters, and the Patriots couldn’t deny them entirely. “[Sturk], we thought she wasn’t going to shoot; she shoots one and banks it. I don’t know if she meant to – but it counted. Huntress threw one in that was just a circus shot.”
“We were playing a team that’s very disciplined defensively, and guarding people,” Coach True said of his girls’ limited chances from beyond the arc. “They’re a very good ballclub; well-coached. At the end of the day, we didn’t make plays when we needed to, and they did.”
“Another thing that may have hurt us a little bit,” said Andreasen, “was, we’ve only been in one game all year less than ten points, the Yarmouth game…So we haven’t been in that back-and-forth; even the Yarmouth game, we were winning by four most of the fourth quarter, so it wasn’t as urgent.”
Conley closed the third with a pair of frees and Jordan began the fourth with a two, grabbing back the advantage for G-NG at 27-26. Conely and Grace Kariotis each added one from the line to pry open a slightly more substantial gap, but Chandler True erased that with a downtowner for 29-29.
“[Chandler True] hits the big three,” Andreasen said. “We said, ‘Don’t leave her the outside,’ we make a mistake – Alicia leaves her – they find her, she buries it. That’s kind of what they’re all about. I kind of equate [Coach True] to Bill Belichick. His teams are always prepared.”
But Chandler True’s three would be the last points her girls recorded. Time running short, Lake Region had little choice but to foul, and Conley and Dumont each added one final strike from the line; if the Patriots’ lead had only been two through the remaining time, the Lakers’ task would’ve been more workable, but Jordan threw a deuce in the mix as well, handing G-NG a two-possession lead. Time expired on a 33-29 differential.
“We were playing great defense, third and fourth quarter,” Coach True said. “We didn’t change anything; there weren’t fouls in the third quarter, there were fouls in the fourth quarter, they’re on the free-throw line, and, like I said, we didn’t convert on the offensive end.”
“Just being able to draw the fouls at the end is what I was hoping for,” Conley said. “The defense was really high-pressure, so it was hard for us to get to the basket…Having the high score be 12 points shows it was a team effort.”
“We have four seniors,” Andreasen said, explaining the victory a little further, “that really didn’t want it to be their last game, and I’ve also got a pretty good sophomore named Bri Jordan. That was probably the play of the game, the layup at the end when it was a [one]-point game.”
Andreasen confessed to preferring his girls on defense with such a miniscule lead and the clocking evaporating. “Only because Lake Region was working the clock better than we could. But we made their last shot tough for them.”
“We just happened to make a few more plays than them,” Andreasen said. “That’s pretty much simply it. I’d like to use the old cliché, ‘We wanted it more than them’ – but no, we didn’t. Their kids wanted it just as much as ours did.”
Conley posted the game high, with 12 points; nobody else – on either team – even broke double-digits. Jordan added seven, DeTroy and Dumont six apiece, and Kariotis and Grant each finished with one. On Lake Region’s side, Huntress contributed seven, Jakobs and Chandler True six each, Millett five, Sturk three and Harriman two.
The teams have collided before in the playoffs – in fact, these nailbiter contests are practically a habit for both sides. Last year, the Patriots slipped past the Lakers in OT.
“It reminded me a lot of last year,” a laughing Conley said. “Right now, we’ve had the same playoff route…We just knew we needed to figure out what we were doing, keep attacking, play our game as much as we could. Coach really helped us get our heads back into it and focus.”
Lake Region retires for the year at 13-7; the Lakers went 12-6 through the regular season, improving by leaps and bounds to peak upon entering the bracketing. The five-seed, they earned a bye through the prelims, then pulled off a 45-30 upset vs. No. 4 Yarmouth, securing another shot at rivals G-NG.
“Very proud of the kids, our effort,” Coach True said, reflecting on the season. “How far we came. I think we improved tremendously from the beginning of the season…I’m happy. I’m sad we couldn’t get to the last game here in the South, but I’m very blessed to have coached these kids.”
No. 1 G-NG vs. No. 6 Lincoln Academy
Two days after besting Lake Region, the Patriots also emerged triumphant vs. the Eagles – despite struggling through a back-and-forth first half that suggested another narrow outcome. G-NG found their calm center during the break, however, then found an offensive groove in the third and fourth quarters. Bri Jordan posted a game-high 16 in the 46-32 contest.
“What’s nice about this team,” Andreasen said, “is that, we’ve got four seniors out there. Those kids have been there before, they know how to play it. We just put Izzy at the point, and she takes care of the ball for us.”
“When we came into the game, Coach said, ‘You guys can’t be tense; you’ve been here,’” Kariotis said. “We were really tense and hesitant in the first half. In the second half, we came out and played our game.”
“We play our best when we get a little bit of a lead,” said DeTroy. “And that started happening in the third. We’re less nervous, and less likely to be afraid to make mistakes; we just play, we play the ball we know we can. We play a little bit more freely.”
DeTroy credited Jordan with getting the Patriots the lead they needed to feel confident. “Bri, throughout the game, played really well. She helped us get that lead.”
Kariotis applauded the opposition. “Lincoln played a wonderful game; I’m very, very impressed with them. They gave it their all. I totally tip my hat to them…Congratulations to them, that they got here.”
Jordan added the first point, a free, and Kariotis the next two, also frees. Dumont followed with a bucket for a 5-0 lead midway through the first. But Lincoln battled back, notching a pair of twos and a pair of frees in rapid succession to jump ahead 6-5. Eagle Kaitlyn Feltis added another two and Lincoln ended the stretch up 8-5.
Jordan erased the Patriots’ deficit with a three at the start of the second, after which the teams traded punches: The Eagles pushed to 10-8, DeTroy answered; the Eagles pushed to 12-10, Jordan answered. Finally, G-NG snuck in front once more, Kariotis converting an o-reb and Jordan Grant hitting one of two from the line to grab a 15-12 upper-hand as intermission arrived and both teams trotted off the court.
“Whenever we’re tense or nervous, we throw the ball away a lot,” Kariotis said of her girls’ jitters. “When we’re relaxed, we make shots, make clean passes.”
Asked what characterizes the Patriots’ style, Kariotis said: “Feeding the post – because if you feed the post, then they’ll collapse and we can start working with the outside game. My outside shots weren’t falling today, so I tried to do something else, played defensively; we focus on strong team defense. That’s a big part of our game.”
Jordan concurred. “Our defense is normally very good,” she said. “We have a lot of help-side, and we communicate well. If we get in other players’ heads…we are successful with it.”
“Everyone just picked up the defensive intensity in the second quarter,” DeTroy said. “I don’t know how many points Lincoln scored, but as soon as we lock down on defense, that’s when we can free ourselves up on offense.”
The Eagles started strong in the third, hashing three quick from the line and two more from the paint. From there, however, the Patriots caught fire: Conley hit two from the line, Jordan a long three, DeTroy a two, Kariotis a pair of twos, Jordan a pair of twos – and so on and so forth as G-NG charged away with the scoreboard. Before long, they’d flipped a tight game on its head. Lincoln never recovered. 46-32 the final.
“It was kind of like the Lake Region game,” Andreasen said. “We had a little bit of a lead, came out in the third quarter, didn’t do well. We recovered, recouped, got ourselves going…In the game the other day, in the third quarter, I saw something in my kids’ eyes I hadn’t seen all year: There was some panic. But they were able to defensively regroup. Today, we offensively regrouped.”
“We were able to get a little bit of a lead, early in the third quarter, against their zone,” Andreasen said, noting that G-NG has struggled against zone defenses this year. “And once it got to be a little bit, we could pull them out of the zone. Once you pull them out of the zone, then we can find our post players.”
“We started breaking down their zone a little bit,” Jordan said of the first-half/second-half dichotomy. “Moving the ball faster. It opened up the middle a little bit more for penetrating. We did well.”
DeTroy commented on the Patriots’ strategy. “We saw (Lincoln standout) Bri Wajer last Regional Final and obviously throughout the season and we know she’s just such a good player. We tried to limit her scoring because we know she can honestly score from just about anywhere. So part of our gameplan was Bri Jordan staying on her. She’s long, so that helps on defense.”
“Also, keeping loose on offense, even though we really didn’t do it in the first half,” DeTroy said. “We always tell ourselves, ‘Be confident; don’t be afraid to shoot.’ In the first half, we weren’t feeling that.”
Beyond Jordan’s 16, Grant finished with nine, DeTroy and Kariotis eight apiece, Conley with three and Dumont with two. The victory bumped G-NG to 20-1. The Patriots – last year’s State Runners-Up – finished first in B South at 17-1, then rested through the prelims before smashing an excellent Freeport squad mercilessly in the quarters.
“I just took the shots that were open and shot with confidence,” Jordan said. “I think, as the game progressively went on, Jordan Grant and Izzy DeTroy, they contributed as well. We just shot and performed as a team.”
“I’m very proud of our seniors,” Jordan said, “and Jordy, and the people who come of our bench – they all give us something: Mikaela Ryan, Haley Kirby; they don’t just go in there, they know what they’re doing.”
The Patriots sounded off on the meaning of a return trip to States. “It’s everything we’ve worked for, since we were this high,” Kariotis said, holding a hand at hip level. “Since we were five years old, we’ve said, ‘Oh, we want to be like ’02, the team that went to back-to-back States.’ We wanted to get there, and last year we did, and we were just overcome by the experience. This year, we need focus on our stuff and just go out and play.”
G-NG reached consecutive State Finals in 2001 and 2002, but lost both times to Mount Desert Island.
“It feels really good,” Jordan said. “I’m excited to see what we have coming for us down the road. Hopefully we can pull it out. I feel more confident than last year. I was a freshman; the stage was all new. It was bigger. This year, it’s going to be different.”
“It’s really exciting,” DeTroy said. “We’ve been through this before, so we know the process; it’s not new territory. We know how to get through it. Everyone is excited to see how the game will turn out.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
The Lady Patriots pose with their new hardware, following their win vs. LA.
Lauren Jakobs ascends toward the net for Lake Region, Izzy DeTroy in her way.
Kristen Huntress sails through the air in pursuit of a ball.
Aisley Sturk passes around the perimter for Lake Region vs. the Patriots.
Laker Chandler True shoulders past G-NG opponent Alicia Dumont.
Bri Jordan of G-NG collides on the attack with Brooke Harriman of LRHS.
Grace Kariotis lofts up a jumper vs. the Eagles.
Bri Jordan cuts upcourt for G-NG in Saturday’s Regional Final.
Bri Jordan lays up a ball vs. LA.
Jordan Grant tries for two underneath vs. Lincoln.
Alexa Thayer surveys her pass options near the sideline during Saturday’s Regional Final.
Alicia Dumont shunts the ball ahead vs. LA.
Jordan Grant tries to shovel around a Lincoln defender on Saturday.
Izzy DeTroy navigates upcourt for G-NG vs. LA.
Skye Conley swings the net, as per tradition, after the Patriots topped the Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Chandler True works the ball through the paint for Lake Region in the semifinals loss to G-NG last Thursday.