BRUNSWICK — Sam Farrell can’t go anywhere these days without someone coming up to shake his hand. Same with the players on his girls’ basketball team at Brunswick High. Strangers offer congratulations wherever they go.

That’s what happens when your team makes history.

On Saturday, Brunswick will play in a girls’ basketball state championship game for the first time. The Dragons (18-3) will meet undefeated Messalonskee (21-0) for the Class A state title at 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

“A lot of people are talking about it,” said Madeline Suhr, the senior forward whose 22-point performance in the Class A South final propelled the Dragons to a 54-51 win over top-seeded Greely. “I feel all the hard work we put in for the last four years has paid off and it’s great to see that happen.”

As great as this is for the team, junior guard Sabrina Armstrong said it’s better for the program.

“It’s a big deal for a lot of people, especially the younger kids,” she said. “A lot of junior high and elementary kids were at that game, and they thought it was cool that the girls won.”

“Maybe some of those girls were undecided between hockey and basketball,” said Farrell, in his eighth year as head coach. “Maybe that game turns them to basketball.”

But that’s for later. For now there’s work to do. As Farrell told them before practice Tuesday, “There are only 10 girls’ teams practicing in this state right now. And you’re one.”

He gave them two days off to enjoy the championship. On Monday, when the players reported for practice, he surprised them by offering a choice to watch “Hoosiers” or “Goonies.” They chose “Hoosiers,” which pleased Farrell. “I mean, I don’t know if there’s a better basketball movie,” he said.

Tuesday they were back at practice, running fast-break drills, shooting free throws and doing whatever is needed to prepare.

Suhr and Armstrong talked about using the positive energy from the win over Greely to keep pushing forward. But they know the key to winning the game is to continue doing what they have done all year, which is to focus on each drill, each practice and each game.

“That focus started the first game, actually in the preseason,” said Farrell, “where we were always prepping for the next game. We never looked ahead. And if you keep that mentality all the time, you hope it gets you (to the final).”

To the Dragons, the only significance to the final is they’re in it.

“There’s a prize at the end of it,” said Armstrong, “but it’s just another game.”

Yes, they know there will be nervous moments. But senior forward Brooke Barter said this team is unlike any other she’s played on at Brunswick: much closer, more trusting. “We’re always open with each other,” she said. “We just work hard together. We push each other.”

Practice, said Armstrong, was something they looked forward to. They trust that on any night, someone will make a game-changing play. Maybe it’s Suhr with her shooting, or Armstrong with her energy, or Barter with her rebounding, or sophomore guard Charlotte MacMillan with her defense, or senior Aidan Sachs with a timely basket.

“We all know where everyone’s strengths are,” said Barter. “And everyone has a set role.”

Suhr led the Dragons with 14.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 4.2 blocked shots per game. Armstrong was next with 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds with 3.4 assists. MacMillan, who guards the best offensive opponent, averaged 7.9 points, Barter 6.1 points and Sachs 5.5 points.

This team stresses defense, giving up only 37.4 points per game. And it starts in practice. “They get after it,” said Farrell. “There are some bumps, some bruises, some scratches.”

While few people expected the Dragons to get this far, Farrell noticed this team was different right away.

“They razz on each other but they support each other,” he said. “Every kid is included in everything they do.”

And now they’re playing for a championship.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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