Ten straight wins strengthened the team unity forged through a summer of practices and games.

Suffering their first loss, 48-41 at Fryeburg Academy on Tuesday, confirmed more work is needed for Gray-New Gloucester to top the perennial Western Class B girls’ basketball powers.

“I think that loss will make us realize that we need to continue to work very hard to get where we want to be,” said Maria Valente, the senior tri-captain and leading scorer.

The Patriots were coming off one of their best games, a 52-35 victory over rival Lake Region, the defending Class B state champion. Combined with earlier wins against annual contenders Greely and York (both 9-2), the victory put Gray-New Gloucester into the unusual position of being the team to beat.

“Living in a small town, everybody knows about it,” said Zoe Adams. “You couldn’t go in the grocery store and not have somebody say, ‘Oh, it’s 10-0.’ ”

On paper the matchup with Fryeburg should have been a win. The Raiders were 3-7 and had lost five straight. Instead, Fryeburg grabbed control early and never let up.

Gray-NG Coach Mike Andreasen said he knew it was “going to be one of those nights,” as he watched his post pair of Adams and Skye Conley do everything but put the ball in the basket, missing three times from short range in one possession.

“Fryeburg needed this game and played urgent. They played like they were on a mission and unfortunately we didn’t,” Andreasen said.

Adams stopped short of saying the loss was a good thing but she, Valente and Andreasen all felt it will be turned into a positive.

“Every game is a learning experience and (Tuesday) night showed us what we really need to work on,” Adams said.

The Patriots’ success stems from three key factors: rebounding, turnovers and foul shooting.

“They’re the litmus test for our team,” Andreasen said. “Against Lake Region we were 80 percent at the line, outrebounded them and had only 13 turnovers. Against Fryeburg the rebounding was fairly even but they had one more than us, we had 21 turnovers and shot about 53 percent from the line.”

Valente, the team leader, is averaging 14 points per game. She’s capable of putting up big scoring games (25 vs. Lake Region) in part because of her ability to get to the line. This season she has more offensive options, including Adams (11.4 ppg), Conley (9.2) and sophomore guard Grace Kariotis.

“In the summer we had a lot of commitment from everyone and that’s definitely made a difference,” Valente said. “We scrimmaged a lot of (good) teams, especially Class A teams.”

The summer sessions helped fuse the veterans with the younger players and boosted team chemistry.

“Nobody is left out. There’s not that outlier,” Valente said. “We work well on the court and well off the court.”

TOM COYNE may be back soon for Falmouth. Coyne, who broke his left foot in an AAU game a week before the start of practice, was told by a doctor earlier this week that his foot was healing nicely. Coyne had the boot removed and has began shooting at practice.

“It’s been awful, terrible sitting on the bench and not being able to contribute,” he said. “I hope to see my first game action Jan. 29 at Freeport. I’ll play a few minutes to get accustomed to being back.”

Falmouth (8-3) moved into first place in the Western Class A Heal point standings Tuesday night with a 59-49 victory against Yarmouth. The Yachtsmen will be home Friday night against Lake Region.

After the Freeport game, the Yachtsmen close the regular season at home Feb. 3 against Cape Elizabeth and at Kennebunk on Feb. 5. Coyne, a junior, hopes to get a little more playing time in each game and should be ready for extensive minutes by the time of the regional quarterfinals Feb. 13.

“That’s almost a month away so I’m hopeful,” he said.

The Yachtsmen have regrouped nicely without Coyne, the team’s top scorer last year at 18.2 points per game. In his last game for Falmouth, he had 30 points in a Western Class A semifinal loss to Bonny Eagle.

His brother, Colin, a sophomore guard, has assumed his brother’s role at point guard. Both Coynes are excellent 3-point shooters. Colin Coyne had 23 points against Yarmouth.

Coyne’s absence has enabled younger players to get more playing time, which could make Falmouth more balanced when the tournament arrives. The Yachtsmen have rebounded after back-to-back losses by winning four straight.

BOOTHBAY REGION girls’ coach Tanner Grover figured in the preseason his team would be improved from last year’s 7-11 squad that exited the tournament in the first round. But even he’s surprised by the Class C squad’s 11-1 start. The Seahawks’ only loss was to Class B Oak Hill (10-1). Wednesday they beat Dirigo (9-2) for the second time this season.

“I knew we were going to be better but I wasn’t really expecting this,” Grover said.

Morgan Crocker and Sara Durgan are key senior leaders, with Crocker an all-around force as a scorer, rebounder and defender. Sophomores Kate Friant at the point and Cagney O’Brien have improved their play.

“The ability was always there but now they have that season of confidence,” Grover said.

Page Brown, a talented 5-11 freshman, and junior Hannah Morley also have factored into the team success. Brown’s addition allowed O’Brien to move to forward and stretch opposing defenses. Morley was the starting point guard as a freshman on a team that went 16-2. She has selflessly taken to the sixth-man role.

“She does a little bit of everything for us,” Grover said.

With the strong start, Grover said his team “does have some high aspirations but we’re taking it day-by-day. Our focus is do what needs to be done that day.”

WHEN ABBY HAMILTON hit the deck in a holiday tournament game, Gorham girls’ coach Laughn Berthiaume feared the worst. The Rams’ senior captain suffered a serious knee injury at the end of her junior season and had just been rounding into form.

“It was the same leg. We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t her knee,” Berthiaume said. “It turned out that it was a sprained ankle so by that night we knew she would be OK.”

Hamilton is one of the SMAA’s best 3-point shooters, and is a key rebounder and facilitator for the Rams. She was back in the lineup Tuesday when Deering snapped Gorham’s seven-game winning streak, leaving both teams at 9-2.

ARIANNA GIGUERE of Waynflete wasn’t as fortunate on the injury front. The junior injured her back in the soccer season. Flyers Coach Brandon Salway had hoped he would get his outside shooting threat back for the second half of the season. Salway said last week while scouting the Poland at Old Orchard Beach game that Giguere’s injury will keep her out the entire season.

– Staff Writer Tom Chard contributed to this report.