Entering the final days of the regular season, it appeared as though the Old Orchard Beach girls might get a bye into the Western Class C quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center next week.

Then came last Friday: OOB lost to Freeport and Traip Academy defeated North Yarmouth Academy. Traip jumped over the Seagulls into fourth place – earning the Rangers a first-round bye – and OOB moved down to fifth, which means it will host a prelim game tonight against Monmouth Academy.

So what were Coach Dean Plante’s thoughts about slipping a spot and playing a prelim?

“Every coach is going to tell you that playing isn’t a bad thing,” said Plante. “But of course you want the bye. If you can get into the quarterfinals without playing, of course you want that.

“But,” he continued, “in my situation, where we are so young (three freshmen and a sophomore are in his top eight), playing isn’t so bad. We get to keep the flow going.”

And that’s the main thing this time of year, to keep doing what you do best. Whether you’re playing a preliminary round game or practicing, coaches are looking to improve the little things that can make or break a team.

Bill Goodman’s McAuley team heads into the Western Class A tournament undefeated and seeded first. The Lions will have 10 days off between games, and Goodman wants to use them to his advantage.

“We wanted to be playing better basketball in February than we were at Thanksgiving,” he said. “We are. I feel we’ve gotten better, but we still need to improve on things.

“There’s good and bad to everything,” he added, talking about the bye week. “We’ll get some rest and get to work on our weaknesses. The bye gives us time to do it. Early in the year, we had a week off and I think it really benefitted my team. I hope it does the same again.”

Paul True’s Lake Region girls go into the Western Class B tournament ranked first, a testament, he said, “to our kids’ hard work and commitment in the regular season.”

Beyond that, he said, the ranking “doesn’t mean anything other than we’re going to be wearing white uniforms.”

He likes having the 11 days off between games to let the minor bumps and bruises heal and to “take care of in-house business.”

FREEPORT WAS one of the dark-horse picks entering the season in Western Class B. But the Falcons had some early injuries and went through a six-game losing skid. Then they regrouped and won their final four games to climb back up to 11th in the final Heal point standings, and will play at No. 6 Wells in a preliminary game tonight.

The Falcons were boosted by the return of point guard Aubrey Pennell, who missed two-thirds of the season while recovering from a knee injury. She teamed with junior Leigh Wyman to settle the offense – Wyman found her 3-point shooting stroke when Pennell returned – and take pressure off sophomore Nina Davenport, who averaged 17.7 points per game.

“Leigh has really stepped up,” said Freeport Coach Jennifer Chon. “The thing is, Leigh and Aubrey work well together. Aubrey knows where Leigh wants the ball, when she wants the ball and where she is on the court all the time.”

GORHAM DESPERATELY needed a win Friday to get into the Western Class A tournament. The Rams had lost four in a row – all to tourney teams – and were in danger of not qualifying. “I don’t calculate the Heal points like some people do,” said Rams Coach Laughn Berthiaume. “But someone told me if we lost, we were out. And that was the message the girls got.”

Gorham beat Westbrook 42-24, as junior Kristin Ross scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Wednesday night, the Rams face seventh-ranked Cheverus, a team that beat them by eight in the season’s second game.

“Our last five games were our toughest stretch of the season,” said Berthiaume. “I looked at it and felt if we got in, we would be tournament ready. We were competitive in every one of them, except the McAuley game (a 51-26 loss). Friday was a playoff game for us. We’re excited.”

BOOTHBAY ENTERS the Western Class C tournament as the No. 3 seed, a rare high spot for the Seahawks, who hadn’t made the playoffs since 2003.

Coach Dan Wolotsky is glad to have a bye into the quarterfinals. “We practice well, so I’m happy to have the extra preparation,” he said.

To keep his players ready, Wolotsky has scheduled a scrimmage Wednesday against Richmond, the No. 1 team in Western Class D. He also brings boys — who aren’t on the Seahawks’ varsity roster — in to practice against his girls. “I pick kids smart enough to be able to take direction,” he said. “I’ll tell them I’m putting them in a 1-3-1 zone so we can practice against it, and they give us a good look.”

The Seahawks enter the tournament confident, and they should be. Of their six losses, three came to top-ranked Hall-Dale, by three, four and one points. They also lost to second-ranked Madison but won the rematch. Their other two defeats were against Class B playoff teams Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain.

“We feel pretty good,” said Wolotsky.

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

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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