Emily Esposito of Gorham was the driving force for the state’s best team each of the last two seasons.

When the game was on the line, Emily Esposito wanted the ball. And when she got it, good things usually happened.

Esposito, a senior guard at Gorham, made the big plays when the Rams needed them and ended her high school career with 42 consecutive wins and two Class AA state championships.

“I couldn’t have planned it any better,” said Esposito. “Forty-two-and-oh. Two state championships. Lots of life lessons along the way. I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness (when the Rams defeated Oxford Hills in the Class AA final, 45-31). I went out the best way possible. And I went out with my best friends.”

Esposito also finished her career as the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year in girls’ basketball. Bound for Division I Villanova University, Esposito averaged 19.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 4.0 assists to help the Rams complete back-to-back 21-0 seasons. She finished her career with 1,446 points, 555 rebounds, 277 steals and 247 assists.

And she was always at her best when the Rams needed her most.

Case in point: the Class AA state title game in Augusta. With the Rams leading only 26-24, Esposito scored seven consecutive points late in the third quarter – including a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining – to give the Rams a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.

“That’s what you expect from a kid going to Villanova,” said Scarborough Coach Mike Giordano. “That’s the kid you lean on in those situations.”

Giordano and other SMAA coaches called Esposito an explosive offensive player, capable of beating opponents by driving to the basket, pulling up for a mid-range jumper or hitting a 3-pointer. She was also a fearless competitor and underrated defender.

Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume said Esposito was a special leader as well. He saw her mature in the four years she started for him.

“I think as she got older, the ability to move on from one play to the next got easier for her,” he said. “When she was young and made a mistake, it was easy for her to second-guess herself. There was none of that this year. She just kept playing.”

She became a role model and a mentor for the young players on the team, not just for her talent but how she played the game. “She was very strong-willed, has a strong personality,” said Berthiaume. “Once she set her mind to something, good things happened for the team.”

Now Esposito is looking forward to her next challenge at Villanova. She took a few weeks off after the season ended, then began working out again.

“I think I’m ready for the next step,” she said. “I’m ready to learn from the best.”

ALL-STATE TEAM

Alisha Aube, Thornton Academy senior forward: A repeat All-State selection, Aube led the Trojans with 17.8 points per game and also averaged 5.1 rebounds. She led the SMAA in 3-point shooting. Aube, who finished her career with over 1,200 points, has committed to play at Division I Butler.

Kolleen Bouchard, Houlton junior forward: A returning All-State selection, the 6-foot-1 Bouchard is one of the state’s top all-around players. In helping Houlton win the Class B North title, she averaged 23.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.1 blocked shots and 2.1 assists. She has 1,405 career points.

Katie Butler, Bangor senior center: A finalist for Miss Basketball, the 6-3 Butler helped the Rams advance to the Class AA North semifinals. She averaged 15.1 points, 15.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists 2.8 blocked shots and 2.1 steals. Butler will play at Tufts.

Lauren Chadwick, Gardiner senior point guard: Chadwick led the Tigers in scoring (14.4 points per game) and steals (3.4), and was second in assists (2.5). She finished her career with 975 points. She is undecided on which college she will attend.

Anna DeWolfe, Greely sophomore point guard: A repeat All-State selection, the 5-6 DeWolfe helped Greely reach the Class A South final, leading the Rangers in scoring (23.5 points per game), assists (4.2) and steals (3.4) She also averaged 3.9 rebounds. DeWolfe is being recruited by several Division I schools.

Emily Esposito, Gorham senior guard: A four-time All-State selection, and this year’s Miss Basketball and Telegram Player of the Year, Esposito led Gorham to its second consecutive Class AA title and 42 straight wins. She averaged 19.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals, and finished with 1,446 career points. She will play at Division I Villanova.

Mackenzie Holmes, Gorham sophomore center: The 6-2 Holmes was a dominating inside presence. She averaged 18.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.8 blocked shots in helping Gorham win its second consecutive Class AA state title. Holmes is being recruited by several Division I schools.

Sophie Holmes, Messalonskee senior guard: A finalist for Miss Basketball, Holmes led the Eagles to the Class A state title by averaging 21.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.2 assists. A four-year starter, she finished with 1,389 points and 727 rebounds in her career. She is undecided on which college she’ll attend.

Madeline Suhr, Brunswick senior center: Suhr had an outstanding season in leading the Dragons to their first appearance in the Class A state final. She averaged 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.7 steals. Suhr, who finished her career with 813 points, will play at Roanoke (Va.) College.

Tasia Titherington, Deering senior guard: In helping Deering to the Class AA North championship game, Titherington averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals. Undecided about college, she finished her career with 996 points.

Ally Turner, Messalonskee junior point guard: At 5-11, Turner had the ability to play just about anywhere on the court. She averaged 9.8 points, 6.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 steals for the Class A champion. Turner often guarded the opponent’s best offensive player.

Brie Wajer, Lincoln Academy senior guard: The 5-7 guard sparked Lincoln Academy to the Class B South final for the second consecutive year. She averaged 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.4 steals. She finished with 1,019 career points and will play at Division II Wingate (N.C.) University.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike Andreasen, Gray-New Gloucester: Andreasen coached a team without any one standout player, but a group that stood out for its balance and defensive intensity. Each player trusted her teammates to step up when needed. Andreasen rotated his players perfectly, developed their skills and made them one of the best teams around, losing only once while earning the school’s first Class B state championship.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH