Freeport built an early lead against the visiting Knights on Friday night, Dec. 4 – Brady LaFrance looked particularly strong – but despite double-digit final tallies by both LaFrance and Nate Pelletier, the Falcons couldn’t quite finish the job. Poland took over in the middle game, and managed to hold on through the final quarter, ultimately taking a 56-54 W.

Still, it was one of Freeport’s best performances in recent memory, and head coach Bill Ridge was pleased. “The basic message was: Be really happy with the effort,” Ridge said of his post-game speech to his boys, “and upset about the result.”

The teams jostled for dominance through the beginning minutes, but by the end of the first quarter, Freeport had established a 14-9 advantage. Connor Dostie opened their scoring, Rice and Eli Fox each added a three, and Pelletier, TJ Morrill and Matt Neilsen each bucketed a two.

“We’ve asked them to just play hard, and play with a purpose,” said Ridge of his coaching staff’s expectations for the Falcons. “And they did that.”

The Knights inched ahead in the second quarter, though. Kurtis Leighton propelled Poland with a pair of threes, and Nate Chouinard and John Fossett both contributed multiple baskets. It was the Knights’ biggest quarter; they put up 23 to the Falcons’ 14. That nine-point differential gave them a 32-28 lead at the half.

Despite the sudden deficit, Freeport looked solid in some key ways. They displayed more unity, as Ridge observed: “These guys, coming into this season, they didn’t look like a group that pulled for each other. We’ve been working really hard to get them on the same page, and get them to understand that, with each other’s help, they can be better. And they’re really buying in.”

The Falcons fell further behind in the third, and it appeared the game might get away from them. Was this the same Freeport who’d lost their poise and failed to finish all-too-frequently in recent years?

Nope, not exactly. Freeport battled back in the fourth, holding the Knights to just nine points while piling up 15 of their own. Chouinard opened the stretch with a three, giving Poland a 50-39 lead, but a pretty Dostie turn-and-fire jumper from about the foul line soon reignited the Falcons’ fight. LaFrance hashed four more, Fox drained another three – his third of the game – and Dostie and Pelletier put up three more apiece to set the board at 56-54 with just inside 30 seconds to play.

Ridge lauded some of his boys, including LaFrance and Pelletier, though he was especially proud of Fox: “I thought Fox had an awesome game. He led us, defensively; he was flying around. He was the reason for the burst at the beginning of the game, and the reason for the burst at the end of the game.”

Poland had possession and perhaps needed only kill time, but the urge to extend their lead proved overwhelming. They pushed inside, and a sloppy travel call underneath turned the ball over to the Falcons. Freeport couldn’t quite keep hold of it themselves, but did regain it on a defensive rebound with the clock nearing zero. Ridge called time-out to retain possession.

Fox’s inbounds attempt with 1.7 on the clock reached point guard Ethan Sclar, who immediately dashed up-court, but a lankier Knight got a step on Sclar from behind and knocked the ball away before he could fire off a Hail Mary attempt from way downtown.

“We had one tough stretch, and that cost us,” Ridge said of the slip in the Falcons’ play from the end of the second quarter through the third. “But even with that tough stretch, we put ourselves in a position to have a chance, to have a shot at the end.”

Nevermind the loss. If their performance versus Poland is any indication, the Falcons have much to look forward to this season. They moved the ball confidently and determinedly, spread their shooting around and played aggressive defense.

“We’ve got good athletes on defense, they can make things happen,” Ridge said of his boys’ near-comeback. “They shoot the ball pretty well. We can get on some hot streaks. So, that wasn’t surprising when that happened to us, toward the end.”

Ridge values the presence of the players in his lineup who, regardless of the sport they’re playing, like getting a job done. “We’ve got some football players out there,” he said, nodding to LaFrance, Morrill and Fox, “who just want to make plays.”

The matchup was both teams’ first on the year, so Freeport begins at 0-1 and Poland at 1-0. The Falcons host Waynflete on Wednesday, Dec. 9; Poland welcomes Fryeburg on Tuesday the 8th.

Ethan Sclar dishes on the attack during Freeport’s narrow loss to visiting Poland on Friday night.Brady LaFrance lead the Falcons’ offense in a beautiful near-comeback against Poland.The Falcons’ Eli Fox lofts a three; Fox had a trio of threes on the night, and was, according to head coach Bill Ridge, the catalyst for the team’s strongest play.Connor Dostie drives toward the net against visiting Poland on Friday night.Falcon Nate Pelletier and a Poland opponent clash in mid-air.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.