All season long, people have been talking about Deering and McAuley leading the field in Western Class A. You might want to include Gorham in the conversation.

The Rams made a big leap last week, moving to third – behind No. 1 McAuley and No. 2 Deering – with wins over Biddeford, Cheverus (No. 4) and McAuley.

“It was quite a weekend for us, both physically and mentally,” said Rams Coach Laughn Berthiaume. “To have the energy to play three games in a row is as much a mental accomplishment as physical.

“These wins really give us some confidence going into the tournament. It’s one thing to talk about competing with the top teams, but going out and doing it is another thing.”

The Rams were led by senior guard Mia Rapolla, whose decision to play lacrosse in college (on scholarship at the University of Massachusetts) must be creating stress among college basketball coaches. She is that good.

She had 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 46-39 win over Cheverus, hitting 5 of 6 foul shots in the final quarter. Then, in Saturday’s 37-27 win over previously unbeaten McAuley, she scored 10 of her 17 points in the second half to rally the Rams from a 20-16 deficit.

Holding the high-powered Lions to just seven points in a half is no easy feat. Playing a zone defense, Gorham was able to take away McAuley’s inside game, but at the same time cover the Lions’ 3-point shooters.

“If you get five girls moving with every pass, it makes the zone much more effective,” said Berthiaume. “That’s the way it was. We just try to cover up the soft spots in the zone.”

Offensively, he said, “it was more about offensive execution (in the second half). We didn’t turn the ball over, and we were able to handle their pressure.”

Berthiaume added that it was a good team weekend. While Rapolla got her points, the rest of the Rams did everything else that was needed. “Team chemistry and role playing is huge for us,” he said.

But Rapolla, who might be the most difficult player in the SMAA to guard one-on-one, remains the go-to person. She leads the Rams in scoring (22.4 points), rebounding (8.6) and steals (4.3).

“She is able to have an impact on the game in a number of different ways,” said Berthiaume. “Rebounding, her ability to cover the passing lanes for me, though, it’s her competitive nature.

“I was talking to a gym teacher at the school the other day and he said that everyone sees her in the team sports, basketball and lacrosse, but it’s the same in class. It doesn’t matter. Badminton, frisbee. It’s like she says, ‘Teach me the sport and I’ll beat you.’ “

Berthiaume knows the final Heal point standings probably won’t be decided until Friday. All the top teams seem to play each other this week, including a McAuley-Deering rematch on Thursday at McAuley (the game was moved up from Friday).

“It’s so close right now,” he said. “Every team has some point-worthy games on the schedule. Every point is going to matter.”

 

WINTER’S STORMS certainly affected last week’s schedule in more ways than one. Many schools could not practice when schools were closed.

After his team scored only one point in the first quarter of last Thursday’s 47-43 overtime loss to McAuley, Deering’s Mike Murphy said, “It was rust and it showed.”

Mike Hart said the same after his Shipbuilders’ 44-36 win over Edward Little Saturday night. “It looked like we hadn’t played in eight days,” he said. “No one was in the right spot, we were flat-footed. It got better as the game went on, but we still struggled offensively.”

Good thing Nikoline Ostergaard didn’t. She had 28 points, scoring 13 in the fourth quarter, nine at the foul line.

Hart said the win not only provided needed Heal points but other intangibles.

“I think I lost my voice there,” he said. ‘It was quite a crowd, a good environment for the kids to play in before the tournament.”

 

EIGHT GIRLS received nominations to the McDonald’s All-American high school basketball team so far: Deering’s Kayla Burchill, Thornton Academy’s Hannah Ebling, Leavitt’s Courtney Anderson, Biddeford’s Keila Grigware, McAuley’s Rebecca Knight, Gorham’s Mia Rapolla and York’s Nicole Taylor and Stephanie Gallagher.

Burchill received her certificate before the Rams’ home game with McAuley. “This means a lot to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve put in,” she said. “I play every day.”

One last nomination will be presented tonight.

There are 800 nominees nationwide for the 24-member All-American team. The final rosters will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPNU.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]