GORHAM — Emily Esposito scored 21 points, including the tying free throws with 24 seconds left to send the game to overtime, and No. 5 Gorham came back to beat No. 12 Falmouth 50-41 in a Western Class A girls’ basketball prelim.
In overtime, Emily Deluca of Gorham scored on a tough drive and converted the ensuing three-point play. Gorham scored the first 11 points of overtime.
“We knew it was a new game in overtime. More than anything it was a fresh start for us,” Deluca said. “That (basket) was really important in getting the team going and from then on we just kept working hard.”
Gorham will face No. 4 Portland (13-5) at 7 p.m. Monday at the Portland Expo.
Falmouth (6-13) played the entirety of its schedule in the mostly Class B Western Maine Conference and had not faced a Class A team this season, but led 33-26 with about two minutes to play in regulation. For most of the game the Yachtsmen used their superior size and some crisp backdoor cuts on offense to control the tempo.
But in the fourth quarter Falmouth fell prey to seven turnovers and made only two shots.
“Four turnovers (early) in the fourth quarter kind of set the tempo,” Coach Mari Warner said.
“We also missed I think 14 points in (uncontested) shots.”
Gorham was playing without Abby Hamilton, who led the SMAA in 3-point field goals. Hamilton tore her ACL in the 16th game of the season. Gorham was 0 of 12 on 3-point shots. That put even more onus on Esposito, a talented freshman averaging over 17 points.
Esposito struggled with her shot through most of the second half, at one point missing 11 straight attempts, some forced and others coming up short.
“A shooter’s mentality is to keep shooting and Coach (Laughn Berthiaume) always tells us if you’re not making your shots to take it to the hoop,” Esposito said. “So I started doing that and they called the foul and I just tried to keep doing the same thing.”
Esposito made 1 of 2 free throws with 3:10 to play to cut the lead to 31-26. Falmouth answered with a score from Jessica Barton off a nice pass from Ally Hickey.
That’s when Esposito made baskets on consecutive trips to cut the lead to 33-30, with Jessica Rexrode getting a layup off a turnover.
Falmouth’s leading scorer, Dayna Vasconcelos (12 points), made 1 of 2 free throws with 55 seconds left, which then set up a flurry of activity in the final minute.
“I thought we did escape,” Berthiaume said. “This was our third overtime game and our first overtime win. Sometimes you have to go through those tough situations and lose to learn how to win. We hung in and competed until the end, so I think that’s going to definitely be a confidence builder for us going forward.”
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: