Despite a pair of double-digit performances – from Jack Davenport with 15 and Brendan Qualls with 13 – Freeport couldn’t keep pace with visiting Poland Friday night.

The Falcons did, at first; but on their own trio of impressive tallies, including Alan Young’s 19, the Knights eventually galloped away with the scoreboard, 60-43.

“For us, at the beginning, offensively it was nice; we were hitting some perimeter shots right off the bat,” said Freeport head coach Matt Reid, new to the program. “I think that helped. It got the enthusiasm up.

“But Poland’s a very good team. They’re going to press us a little bit, they’ll play in the half-court; they mix it up, what they do, they go man, they go zone. You don’t get, last year, to the State game by accident.”

It’s often hard for teams to take anything specific and substantial away from a season-opener. Suffice it to say, the road win kicks off Poland’s season with an encouraging bang, and Freeport’s stumble to start their schedule – well, hopefully it just motivates them, to come together, to learn. The wins will follow.

The team has, after all, some obvious strengths: They have height in Qualls (6-foot-4), Davenport (6-foot-2), Nate Pelletier (6-foot-3) and especially Matt Nielsen (6-foot-6); and they have athleticism. Qualls, Davenport, Pete LaMagna, Brady LaFrance and Connor Dostie all excel in one or more other sports, and while basketball of course requires its own unique skillset, a generalized physical prowess – especially coupled with ferocious effort – should never be underestimated.

And Reid played a lot of his guys, too; he didn’t just run his starters for four quarters while relying on two or three subs to give them breaks.

“We tell the kids it’s a constant evaluation. Just because tryouts end, doesn’t mean a player’s going to start in one place and necessarily end there,” he said.

But for Reid, putting his roster through its paces is about more than exploring the rotation.

“It’s partly that. But it’s also because we have a pretty deep team,” he said. “We have a lot of good athletes, kids that can work hard, hustle, make some of those plays on defense.”

Still, the Falcons held the lead only once against the Knights on Friday, and that was early. Poland’s Zack Lowe opened the scoring with a quick two, plus one from the line, before Freeport’s Ethan Sclar knocked down a two of his own to keep things tight. Sclar, a talented freshman, would hash just the one basket in his high school debut – but not because he lost his cool: He injured himself before long, evidently a turned ankle, and sat the rest of the game, icing his foot.

Knight John Fossett inched his squad further ahead then, draining another two, but Qualls roared back with five consecutive points to seize the advantage, 7-5. Poland immediately answered, though, and never looked back after that.

Though the Falcons continued to keep the first-half action close, as the break approached, the Knights began to pull away. Late in the first, Davenport bucketed a two to pull Freeport within one, 16-15, and midway through the second, Qualls buried a two to cut Poland’s lead to three, 24-21.

Reid was particularly happy with some of his boys’ play at mid-court.

“I noticed some of the guys, and not just on the press – and Poland did a nice job against it – but hustling in the half-court on defense, “ he said. “Pete LaMagna hustled pretty solidly; Nathaniel Cyr has really been doing a nice job on the defensive end, taking on that leadership role. But it has to be a team effort.”

From the sideline, it looked as though the Falcons grew a bit more frantic – to their detriment – as the Knights built up a bigger and bigger lead. While Freeport’s shooting and rebounding had looked solid in the opening minutes, they slipped as Poland pulled ahead. The Falcons took some riskier passes that didn’t work out, and in the heat of the attack, turned the ball over more than they should have.

“It’s all relative,” Reid said. “When the going’s good, it’s good; you have that enthusiasm, you crash the offensive glass, you make those types of hustle plays. I think what we really need to work on, collectively, every single one of us, is when the going gets tough, and we miss a couple of shots and things aren’t really going our way, trying to be more resilient.

“That’s something we’re trying to hammer home in practice. Ultimately, it’s hard to simulate game conditions in practice, but that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

At the break, the Knights stood on top 34-21, and in the second half, the Falcons never slashed that 13-point deficit by more than one. In addition to Young’s game-high 19, Lowe notched 11 and Fossett 12. LaFrance had six for Freeport, and Eli Fox five.

Poland matches their 1-0 record against Kennebunk’s 0-1 at home on Tuesday, Dec. 9. The Falcons don’t play against until Wednesday the 10th, when they travel to 0-1 Greely.

“No matter what’s up there on the scoreboard, that’s sort of the mentality: up 50, down 50, tie-game, whatever the situation is, we’re going to give it our best to the very end,” Reid said.

Brendan Qualls dribbles between his legs on the attack for Freeport Friday evening. Qualls had 13 for the Falcons in their 60-43 loss to visiting Poland.Freeport junior Caleb Rice elevates a shot over a Poland defender Friday evening.Jack Davenport had a team-high 15 points for the Falcons Friday night.Freeport’s Brady LaFrance leaps out of the fray to get off a shot Friday evening.

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