PORTLAND—The Lady Patriots made their post-season run this winter look – as ludicrous as this sounds, and as far as it’s even possible – borderline routine.
Sure, sure, they faced worthy opponents, including Mount Desert Island, the North reps in Saturday, March 2’s Class B Championship bout, but even the Trojans only managed to lead briefly against G-NG, who prevailed in the end by a casual-seeming 43-30.
Patriots head coach Mike Andreasen was more humble than all that, though. “It was great. Today our defense didn’t desert us; today our defense won that game. MDI’s a great offensive team. We held them to 30 points; it was wonderful stuff. The offense wasn’t clicking all the time, but the defense was there all the time. Good stuff.”
The triumph left senior star Bri Jordan at a loss for words: “It’s Awesome. Undescribable. Like, I have no emotion right now beacuse this is all happening, but it’s amazing. I’m so proud of my teammates.”
Jordan – she doesn’t always explode, but she’s plenty capable of it – piled up G-NG’s biggest day, with 17. But the Patriots got critical contributions up and down their roster: Jordan Grant finished with eight, Alexa Thayer and Eliza Hotham with six apiece, Sam Fortin with four and Mikaela Ryan with two.
All that accounting doesn’t even make mention of perhaps G-NG’s chief strength – their defense, that is. MDI are no offensive slouches, so for the Patriots to hold them to 30 points in the biggest game of the year is an achievement unto itself.
“It’s really awesome how our whole – it doesn’t have to be one person scoring; it can be everyone scoring – and we’re all contributing in different ways,” Thayer, a senior, said. “Some of us may not be the best at offense, but we make it up with defense, or some of us may not have the best defense, but we make it up with offense.”
“We all get along so well with each other,” Thayer said. “We’re all picking each other when someone may not be having the best game.”
G-NG opened the scoring with a quick four: Jordan fed Ryan for the game’s first bucket, then collected a defensive rebound and chucked it upcourt for Grant, who dropped in the 4-0 strike. The Trojans surged after that, Julia Watras hitting a two, Hannah Chamberlain a three and Alexis Clarito a free for 6-4.
6-4 would prove MDI’s only lead of the day, however: When Jordan drained her next basket – a three – the Patriots jumped back on top 7-6 and never relinquished control again. A Thayer steal led to two frees for Jordan; Hotham then stole and, happily, converted – she’d started the game looking a little out of sorts, missing shots and picking up uncharacteristic fouls, but when she finally broke onto the board, she settled down quickly.
Soon, Jordan missed on a three attempt, but Thayer, Jordan herself and Grant all grabbed rebounds and tried follow-up shots before Jordan ended up at the line, where she hashed one of two – she drained an impressive eight of 10 free-throw attempts on the afternoon, demonstrating her cool. She contributed another two, as well as an assist to Grant in the last seconds of the quarter, as the Patriots took a 16-8 upper-hand into the second.
“The fact that [MDI] are really good outside shooters,” Jordan said, asked what G-NG focused on, defensively. “And they are really aggressive. We don’t play many aggressive teams, besides, like, the Greelys and the Class A teams that we play. In Class B it’s hard to find that aggression. When we went out we were prepared; we were battling in practice all week, and we were just really focused I think.”
MDI successfully slowed G-NG down in ensuing eight minutes, allowing them just seven, though the Patriots held the Trojans to 10 in return. Olivia Gray kicked off the Trojans’ push, hitting an early three, but Grant fed to Fortin underneath for a two in response. Hotham picked up her third foul midway through the quarter – an unfavorable development for the Patriots, given how versatile and dangerous Hotham is. She checked out for a stretch.
Fortin stole and handed off to Jordan, who hurled the ball deep for Grant and 20-14; a held ball went MDI’s want and Chamberlain hit a two; Thayer and Chamberlain traded twos, Grant added a free and the half expired on 23-18.
“We work a lot in practice on defense,” Thayer said. “We do a man-to-man defense, and if someone gets beat, someone steps into help them. We all work together, so it works really well with the man-to-man.”
The Trojans held the Patriots to just seven in the third as well – but G-NG doubled-down on their trademark defense and shut MDI up to the tune of a meager four. Hotham added a pair of twos, Thayer a two and Jordan a free in the quarter, recouping the ground the Patriots had given up before the break.
“Our goal is to win every quarter,” Jordan said. “So for us to be able to…focus on one quarter at a time, I think that’s how we really get through it.”
Finally, in the fourth, G-NG outpaced the Trojans once again, this time 13-8. Jordan sank five of six foul-shots, and Thayer a pair of the same; Fortin and Grant each contributed another bucket en route to the 43-30 result. It all looked – from the perspective of anyone accustomed to watching the talented, battle-tested Patriots play – pretty straightforward. But of course, that’s underselling the matter.
G-NG closes the season with 20 wins; the Patriots fell just twice – both times to Class A’s foremost superpower, Greely. The team bested Maranacook in the tourney quarters, Wells in the semis and Freeport in the Regional Final.
“They’re great,” Andreasen said of state championships. “This is my second with the basketball team, and it’s Bri’s last time, and he’s been great. We’ve been to three of them, and every one’s unique. Different kids, different scenarios.”
“I wouldn’t say there was ever any ‘doubts,'” Jordan said, asked if the Patriots lacked confidence at any point. “There was moments of panic, especially in the girls’ eyes I saw it a little bit. But I was never doubtful; I always thought that if we played good and played hard and as a team, we’d be able to do it, and that’s what we did.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
The Patriots hoist the gold ball.
Head coach Mike Andreasen raises the game ball high overhead.
The Patriots – including Jordan Grant (second from left), Bri Jordan (to her right) and Alexa Thayer (to Jordan’s right) – are all smiles following their triumph.
Jordan Grant performs the ritual net-whirl that all victors perform.
Mady West takes a cut at the nets, post-victory.
The Patriots celebrate immediately following their win.
Chelsea Davis shuttles the ball inward for the Patriots.
Alexa Thayer drives inward for the Patriots.
Eliza Hotham ducks around an MDI defender, looking to score.
Jordan Grant surveys her pass options.
Sam Fortin lays up an attempt.
Bri Jordan approaches on the attack, guarded by a Trojan.
Alexa Thayer lofts up an inside shot.
The Lady Patriots pose with their new hardware.
G-NG star Bri Jordan hugs fellow G-NG star Jordan Grant after the team’s victory over MDI.