By Mike Zhe firstname.lastname@example.org Feb 10, 2019
The Hawks (14-4) have known for more than a week that they’d be the No. 3 seed for the upcoming Class A South tournament. The only question was who would slot in at No. 6 and be their opponent in the regional quarterfinals at the Expo in Portland on Feb. 18.
It turned out to be York (8-10), coached by Steve Freeman Sr., which collected a nice win against Class B contender Wells to close the season Thursday and move up into the No. 6 spot.
“Not what I was hoping for,” said Freeman Jr., his reasoning more emotional than strategic. “I’d rather play anybody else, to be honest with you.”
Another Freeman vs. Freeman battle is just one rich storyline as the Maine girls basketball playoffs get underway this week.
Another is this: In Class AA South, Noble is back in the spotlight after a 10-year hiatus.
The Knights (10-8) are the No. 4 seed in Class AA South and will host No. 5 Bonny Eagle (12-6) on Wednesday (6 p.m.) in the quarterfinals.
It is Noble’s first winning record and first home playoff game since 2009. That team, led by All-State center Sloane Sorrell, the program’s last 1,000-point scorer, went 15-5 and advanced to the old Western Maine Class A semis.
Last year, the Knights made their first playoff appearance since 2009, losing at No. 1 South Portland, 55-32, in the AA quarters.
Still a young team with just four seniors on the roster, Noble has relied on junior guards Amy Fleming and Raegan Kelly, and freshman guard Olivia Howard to lead the way offensively, all of them averaging in double figures. Sophomore forward Tori Exel has stepped in and added some secondary offense when needed.
Fleming is in the top 15 in the SMAA in four major categories. She leads the Knights with 12.5 points per game, 8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.5 steals. Kelly and Howard are averaging 12 and 10 points per game, respectively.
“For us on offense we’ve got to eliminate turnovers,” said coach Matt Reid. “When we played (Bonny Eagle) last time, we won the rebounding battle. That was key for us.”
The guard-heavy Knights thrive on their ability to frustrate teams with their full-court defensive pressure, which then translates into offense.
“I think as long as we come out and play our game, we can compete with anybody on any given night,” said Howard last month.
Noble beat Bonny Eagle in North Berwick on Dec. 20, 61-47, after trailing 25-23 at the half. Fleming scored a team-high 24 points, igniting a third-quarter 22-9 surge that gave the Knights a 45-34 lead after three stops. Howard added 11 points and Exel tossed in 10.
Wednesday’s winner advances to the regional semis on Feb. 19 at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland against either No. 1 South Portland (17-1) or No. 8 Thornton (4-14).
In Class C South, Traip won six of its last 10 games to get into the tournament as the No. 12 seed with a 7-11 record. It plays a prelim at No. 4 Boothbay (12-6) on Tuesday.
“They’re good,” said coach Scott Blake. “I watched them play on Monday up at Oak Hill. The thing about them is that they’re younger than us. They start three freshmen.”
The Rangers finished strong thanks in part to the emergence of sophomore forward Kiki Huntress, who scored 13, 16 and 15 points in their last three games, another option for point guard Addy Hale.
“She’s really doing things we’ve asked her to do,” said Blake. “She wasn’t real aggressive to start the season but she’s flipped the switch.”
The Class A South quarters will mark the third time Marshwood and York have hooked up this season, with the Hawks winning the first two by scores of 58-43 and 59-36.
The Wildcats won three of five to close the regular season, a stretch that included the win over Wells and a loss to first-place Greely. Nina Howe is their top scoring threat and freshman Emily Rainforth has had some big games.
For Marshwood, Freeman said half court defense is something that needs to be tightened up, the amount of easy baskets allowed reduced. Offensively, junior guard Angelina Bisson has been playing well lately, emerging as a third scoring option behind seniors Natalie Herbold (10 points per game) and Alicia Richards on a deep team.
“Angelina has really stepped up,” said Freeman. “She’s starting to play like we expected her to. When she’s doing her thing and making shots, she’s tough.”
The Hawks are aiming to reach the regional semifinals for the third straight year. In each of the previous two, their path was blocked by Greely and standout Anna DeWolfe; this time, it’s likely No. 2 Brunswick (15-3) awaiting the winner in the Feb. 20 semis.
“We knew for the last two or three games that we were locked into the No. 3 seed,” said Freeman. “We’ve been trying to work on some things that would prepare us for what the playoffs bring us.”
This time, the playoffs bring dad.
Foster’s Daily Democrat sports editor Mike Whaley contributed to this report.