PORTLAND — During halftime of Saturday’s game against Waynflete, the Poland girls’ basketball team spent the break discussing the need to be more aggressive.

Sophomore point guard Natalie Theriault led that effort in the second half, scoring 15 of her 21 points to lead the Knights to a 52-40 win.

“It was definitely the talk at halftime,” said Theriault. “We just talked about how we really need to start pushing it and playing our game, and we came out and did that.”

It was a crucial win for Poland (6-8), which is clinging to the ninth and final playoff spot in Class B South. Waynflete (5-9) currently holds the last playoff position – 14th place – in Class C South.

Theriault had a positive impact all over the court, finishing with seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and a pair of blocks.

“Natalie is absolutely not a typical sophomore,” said Poland Coach Mike Susi. “She’s really growing into a leader. She’s coaching players on the floor. A lot of times she’s actually saying what’s on my mind before I can even get it out. She’s our engine. When she’s rolling we can play with anybody.

“She’s so unselfish, I think she would prefer to have 21 assists. She’s always looking for her teammates. We have to encourage her to shoot the basketball a lot of the time. It’s great to have a player like that, who can create and who can score. It makes coaching life a lot easier. It makes her teammates more confident, because they know she’s going to get them the ball if they’re open.”

Waynflete Coach Mike Jefferds agreed about Theriault’s impact.

“You can focus on a pure shooter and say ‘OK, we’re going to stay out on her,’ and you can focus on someone down low in the post, but a player like that, it’s hard,” said Jefferds. “She makes everyone around her better and raises the level of that team. Not that those other players aren’t good, but she raises the level by making nice passes and really reading the defense.”

Morgan Brousseau (11 points, six rebounds), Lexi Grondin (nine points) and Jessica Seeley (five points, seven rebounds) helped shoulder the offensive load, while Poland used a suffocating trap defense that called for an all-hands on-deck approach with each player flashing positional versatility.

“It’s been our game plan all year,” said Theriault. “Our defense sparks the offense and today it definitely worked to our advantage. We’re not a big team and we’re not very tall. It’s just so important that all of us can play multiple positions.”

Ali Pope led the Flyers with 14 points, while Annika Brooks (seven points, 14 rebounds) and Lydia Giguere (seven points) chipped in solid efforts.

Waynflete surged back late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, cutting Poland’s lead to six. Missed free throws and turnovers allowed the Knights to secure the victory.

“It goes back to their pressure,” said Jefferds. “Credit to them, he’s a hell of a coach and they’re a good team, but it goes back to that pressure. They used it all game to kind of wear us down, and then we didn’t have the legs to hit those free throws late.”