Patriots earn their turn at top

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The Lady Patriots hoist their new hardware after downing Houlton.

AUGUSTA — With 7.7 seconds to play, Patriot Bri Jordan stepped to the line. Her team up a mere bucket, Jordan with two could knee-cap Houlton’s hopes of completing a late-game takeover – and she did, sinking both her frees to give her girls a two-possession lead and the W.

The final was 35-31 as Gray-New Gloucester claimed its first-ever Class B State crown at the Civic Center on Friday night, March 3. The contest was a rematch of last year’s final, when the North-repping Houlton Shiretowners emerged the victors.

“It was definitely nice to be able to play a team we had played before,” said Patriots senior Captain Skye Conley, who led the team with 12. “We were familiar with them; we had played them in the preseason, we had played them last year. Going into a huge game like this, not knowing the team you’re playing, can really stress us out.”

Initially failing to act on a lesson they should definitely have learned last year –  that Shiretowner Kolleen Bouchard could not be allowed to go gallivanting across the court unharangued – the Patriots fell behind early. Bouchard added two from the line and two from the paint to push Houlton out front 4-0 before teammate Makala Watson bucketed yet another two for 6-0 and, frankly, a shocking start to the action.

G-NG head coach Mike Andreasen called timeout – smart move, because his girls returned to the court mentally reset. Izzy DeTroy hit a two, the first flame of the fire, though Bouchard responded, driving untouched up the middle for 8-2. DeTroy struck again, however, and teammate Alicia Dumont reeled in a ferocious d-reb that DeTroy then turned into two more. 8-6.

“We were down 6-0 with four to go,” Andreasen said, “and Izzy came out and made three little corner jumpers; she’s pretty unflappable. She’s a kid that thrives on pressure. She’s valedictorian of her class. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed – she’s a doer. I know Skye scored the 12 late, but those six were equally important.”

“We needed to stay comfortable,” Jordan said of the Patriots’ falling behind. “Izzy contributed, helping with her jump shot – that’s key for her, that’s her shot. Once we did come back, we never really lost it.”

“He was kind of just like, ‘Are you kidding?’” Conley said of Andreasen’s timeout spiel. “We knew we weren’t performing well; we had gone over what we needed to do, and we weren’t doing it … We weren’t supposed to be letting those easy drives happen. After that talk, we were able to kind of crack down defensively.”

In particular, the Patriots redoubled their efforts to bridle Bouchard. “We did well,” Conley said. “We had help-side defense really well and both Bri and Izzy were on her throughout the game. They’re amazing defenders, so they’ve been taking the best players from every team, every game.”

“She’s obviously an amazing player, so much talent,” DeTroy said of Bouchard. “I tried to keep my hands down when I closed out, but make sure I closed out tight.”

DeTroy, post-game from Sun Media on Vimeo.

“I think we made Bouchard work for her 16,” Andreasen said. “The only touch she got that was an easy look was that 25-footer that she buried. Bri played good D on her; Kolleen just scored an NBA three. She tried it again, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God; if that one goes, the kid is really inhuman.’”

G-NG had all but burned off Houlton’s advantage and the Shiretowners called their own timeout. It didn’t have the necessary effect. Conley, when play resumed, began with a d-reb for the Patriots that Jordan soon converted on, tying things at eight-all – which is where the opening quarter concluded.

Conley delivered a towering block to begin the second, allowing Jordan to steal; Jordan fired the ball long upcourt to Jordan Grant, who completed a lay-up for two and G-NG’s first lead of the evening, 10-8.

“Coming in as a freshman, I was really nervous,” Grant said. “I’ve got to stay confident in myself. Sometimes, I’m timid to shoot, but I know I’ve just got to put it up there. When it goes in, it’s good for the team.”

G-NG built from there: A flurry of o-reb attempts earned Jordan a trip to the line, where she hashed one of two; she followed that up with two from the field. Houlton’s first – and only – points of the quarter came late, when Aspen Flewelling knocked down a three for 13-11. Dumont, however, drained a distant buzzer-beater to send the Patriots into the break ahead 16-11.

“It was amazing,” Conley said of Dumont’s shot. “It really helped momentum swing our way. To go into the half with a five-point lead instead of a two-point lead was huge in a State Championship.”

G-NG never trailed again – though Houlton did eventually battle back to within heel-nipping distance. Conley jumped behind the wheel in the third, notching three twos and a pair from the line and gobbling up rebounds like they literally nourished her. The Patriots extended their upper-hand as far as 24-16 before Bouchard and Co. assembled a 9-2 run to 26-25.

“Obviously the nerves kicked in,” Jordan said her reaction to Houlton’s late surge. “But knowing that it’s our last game, we just needed to leave it all out there, and that’s what we did. All of us stayed pretty calm, and kept our composure.”

“I actually wasn’t that nervous,” DeTroy said. “I’m not a very nervous person when it comes to sports. But the vibe was pretty relaxed; coming into this game, we were less nervous than we usually are, which is a little strange, because it’s the biggest game we were going to be playing.”

The Patriots couldn’t let up – and didn’t. Grant from the line and Conley from the field shunted the Patriots to 29-25, but Flewelling reclaimed two of those for 29-27; Conley fed Grace Kariotis underneath for 31-27 and Grant hashed two for 33-27, but Bouchard and Tessa Solomon combined to narrow that gap to 33-31 inside the final minute.

Conley discussed an aspect of the Patriots’ game she herself is especially important to: rebounding. “We knew that, going into this, we couldn’t let them get second chances,” she said. “We had talked about it for a couple days in practice. Luckily, we were able to box out. Sometimes we have trouble in that, during games. But this game, we were all on the same page with it.”

With 33.4 seconds remaining, Jordan locked horns with a Shiretowner – and won the held ball that resulted. Houlton had played squeakily-clean in the downhill half, but now needed a couple rapid-fire fouls to push G-NG into bonus territory; the Shiretowners’ hopes for regaining possession, after all, hinged on sending the Patriots to the line, then picking up a rebound.

Bouchard and Solomon both quickly infracted. Solomon’s foul gave Jordan her final shots of the game – the game’s final shots, period, as it would turn out. Jordan, of course, sank both and the rest is school history.

DeTroy expressed perfect confidence in Jordan at the line. “Yeah, of course; Bri is an amazing player. She doesn’t play like a sophomore … she plays with so much composure.”

Conley remarked on a key development in the action, almost a stroke of luck for the Patriots: “We came out at the half, and they had gone from their zone into a man defense, and that’s kind of the defense we like to play against. We’ve had trouble all year with a zone, and every team has zoned us, because they figure that out.”

DeTroy talked about Conley’s second-half head of steam. “We’ve gotten zoned the entire year,” she said, “and as soon as we go man-to-man, it’s pretty automatic for Skye. They didn’t really double-team her that much, which I thought, initially, was sort of surprising. As soon as she can have the space to put on her moves, we kind of just try to make some cuts but clear out of her way, because when she is creating, things go pretty well for us.”

Conley, as mentioned, finished with 12 – all of them in the second half. Jordan finished with seven, DeTroy with six, Grant with five, Dumont with three and Kariotis with two.

The elated Patriots retire till next winter at 21-1. G-NG’s only dropped bout in the regular season was a matchup with A South’s No. 1 outfit, Greely. The Patriots barreled into the tournament ranked first, which earned them a bye through the prelims.

In the quarters, G-NG beat up on a respectable Freeport squad, 57-24, and in the semis just snuck past ever-dangerous Lake Region, 33-29. They downed Lincoln, their opponent in the Regional Championship, with relative ease, 46-32.

For this year’s crop of seniors – DeTroy, Dumont, Conley and Kariotis – the Gold Ball caps a journey they began in childhood; for the school and the community at large, it caps a journey another group of girls began more than 15 years ago: G-NG reached back-to-back State Finals in ’01 and ’02, falling both times to MDI.

“It means absolutely everything,” Conley said of her girls’ achievement. “We’ve been working for this since we were in sixth grade … To work together, since that age, up to now, and be able to accomplish this with a 100 percent team effort is just so unimaginable. It feels really amazing.”

“It means everything,” DeTroy said. “Obviously we play for each other – but knowing that we have a community that supports us means everything.”

“Really good!” Jordan said, practically shouted, asked how it felt to be State Champs. “It feels really good.”

Jordan and Grant, post-game from Sun Media on Vimeo.

For more media, including video interviews with Conley, DeTroy, Grant and Jordan, visit www.keepmecurrent.com/category/sports.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.

The Lady Patriots hoist their new hardware after downing Houlton.

The Patriots rush the court after completing their victory over the Shiretowners.

Izzy DeTroy swings the cut net – as per tradition – following G-NG’s defeat of Houlton in Friday night’s Class B State Final.

Skye Conley pushes through the paint toward the net for G-NG vs. Houlton.

G-NG sophomore standout Bri Jordan ascends toward the net.

G-NG’s Grace Kariotis juggles an airball in Friday night’s Class B Final.

Jordan Grant boxes out Houlton opponent Kolleen Bouchard.

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