Now in his fifth year as Gray-New Gloucester’s girls’ basketball coach, Mike Andreasen is trying to make the program one that students want to play for.

The performance of this year’s team should help.

The second-seeded Patriots won their first regional championship in 14 years, beating fourth-seeded Lincoln Academy 45-30 in the Class B South final Saturday afternoon at Cross Insurance Arena.

Gray-New Gloucester scored the first 10 points and never looked back, using a tenacious man-to-man defense to keep the Eagles from getting any closer than six.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Skye Conley, a junior center for the Patriots. “I can’t even describe it. All our hard work has paid off, all the early practices. It just really feels good to do this as a team.”

Gray-New Gloucester (17-4) will play Houlton for the state championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. It will be the Patriots’ first appearance in a state title game since 2002, when the Patriots suffered the second of back-to-back state final losses to Mt. Desert Island.

“We haven’t had the success of some of the other local teams,” said Andreasen. “This is a nice step for us.”

Lincoln Academy finished 18-3. The Eagles were led by junior guard Brie Wajer, who scored 18 points and was named the winner of the Mike DiRenzo Award, given to the tournament’s outstanding player.

“Give them all the credit,” said Lincoln Coach Kevin Feltis. “They played great defense. It was a constant battle, getting down 10 points early, just to come back.”

Typically, the Patriots did it as a team. Grace Kariotis led them with 13 points – 10 in the second half – and Conley had 10 points, a team-high nine rebounds and five steals. Three other players scored at least six points.

“We don’t normally have one person scoring 20 points,” said Kariotis. “We even it out really well. And I like that. There’s not too much pressure on one person.”

Jumping out to a 10-0 lead certainly helped. Gray-New Gloucester went inside and out, hitting three jumpers from the foul line elbow and scoring two baskets inside.

“It helped relieve the tension,” said Conley. “Getting out there for the final is very nerve-wracking, and it helped us relax.”

The Eagles cut it to six a couple times, the last at 13-7 on a 3-pointer by Chloe Hallowell to open the second quarter. But the Patriots responded with a 7-2 run, including a 3-pointer from Kariotis, to make it 20-9. Lincoln Academy got to within 24-16 at the half when Alyx York hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining.

At the half, Andreasen told his players they had to win the third quarter. And they did, despite scoring only five points, all by Kariotis. Gray-NG’s defense held Lincoln to three points in the quarter, which ended with the Patriots ahead 29-19.

Wajer hit a jumper to make 34-25 with 3:57 left, but Kariotis sank three foul shots in the next 50 seconds to regain the momentum as the Patriots pulled away.

“This was our best game of the tournament,” said Andreasen. “We had the great start. And then the kids kept their composure down the stretch.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH