BRUNSWICK’S MADELINE SUHR, left, and Brooke Barter lead the Dragons into Saturday’s State Class A girls basketball championship against Messalonskee. Tip is slated for 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

BRUNSWICK’S MADELINE SUHR, left, and Brooke Barter lead the Dragons into Saturday’s State Class A girls basketball championship against Messalonskee. Tip is slated for 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

BRUNSWICK

There are several ways to make it to the top of a chosen endeavor.

For Brunswick High School senior girls basketball players Madeline Suhr and Brooke Barter, their paths couldn’t be much different.

No matter how you slice it, come Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center, these Dragons will be on the court in the State Class A championship game against undefeated Messalonskee at 1 p.m., vying for the Gold Ball.

Madeline Suhr

The daughter of Kim and Tammy Suhr, Madeline has been a standout pretty much from the start of her high school career.

Standing 5-foot-9, the long-armed forward has things that are naturally born to an athlete — timing, a smooth release on her shot, a compete level that is second to few.

“She is the most polarizing player on the team,” Brunswick coach Sam Farrell said of Madeline, who averages 14.5 points a game, 9.2 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 3.8 steals and 2.7 assists. “It is not just her talent because her teammates know she will give everything she has. She is special, a tall kid that can shoot, plays defense, maybe the biggest steal that I have seen in a game against Greely. She was a quiet kid, but now she is a vocal leader.”

The steal Farrell refers to came last Saturday at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena. Trailing by a point as the time ticked down, Madeline stole a Greely pass, dribbled to the basket and scored while being fouled to give the Dragons the lead for good, 50-48. She scored 22 points and was named the Class A South Regional Most Valuable Player. Madeline was also selected as the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year, is a McDonald’s All-Star and a KVAC First Team member.

“I have had a fun career at Brunswick,” said Madeline. “The support from the community has been so good. Everyone is congratulating us on our big win, and it is such a big deal because we have never been there before. Everyone is excited.”

Farrell had little trouble putting his finger on the time when the Dragons came together this season, leading to Saturday’s state title game.

“Against Edward Little we were down 19 points. Madeline put the team on her back, scoring points, blocking shots. It was her. She had that look on her face that ‘this isn’t happening.’ She really stepped out,” Farrell remembered.

For Madeline, the state game, along with the practices leading up to it, are things she will always remember.

“The practices have been so fun, and I am glad that we have had this time together,” said Madeline. “I think just being together on such a close team has been a big advantage for us. We love each other and hang out together.”

Brooke Barter

Time to turn to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Brooke, the daughter of Cathy and Tom, is the prototypical “working class” girl.

Things didn’t come easy. She spent two seasons plying her trade on the Brunswick jayvee team. She had an opportunity to play a bit on the varsity team as a sophomore, then as a junior came off the bench exclusively, providing energy and some valuable scoring for short bursts of time.

Even the first half of her senior season, Brooke was still coming off the bench.

“Freshman and sophomore year I was a jayvee player, and I think honestly I wouldn’t be the player I am without those jayvee years,” Brooke said. “Obviously, varsity is a lot different, the game is faster, intense. I worked my way up junior year off the bench, and even this year off the bench to start the game I would get fired up and get the feel of the crowd. I had that energy and hype to get in the game.”

It would be easy for Farrell to take credit for inserting

Brooke into the starting lineup, a move that provided the Dragons with a boost of energy down the stretch and into the postseason, along with Brooke’s 6.1 points a game, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 steals. But, it was the seniors that initiated the change.

“The other seniors came to see me and it was their push more than mine,” said the coach. “It was me listening to them, not a great coaching move by me. Brooke has always had that talent. She needed to grow up and she has this year. It has just come together. For a kid to have not started so many games to make First Team All-Conference says something.”

Still, inserting Brooke into the starting lineup, away from her successful role as the first off the bench, was a concern.

“One of the reasons I didn’t want to start her was because of the energy she brings off the bench. It is hard to replicate,” Farrell added.

“So much changed when Brooke came into the starting group,” Madeline said. “She brings in a lot more offense, something we struggle with sometimes. Brooke brings a boost of energy into the lineup that we always need.”

Brooke remembers that night at Bath, her first varsity start against the rival Shipbuilders.

“My first game starting was the Morse game and the first half, the first minutes I was really nervous,” said Brooke. “But I realized we needed more energy, more of a boost on offense. I had a few games where I scored. Some games I didn’t score many, but I still brought energy to the starting lineup.”

For Farrell, it is obviously more than just Madeline and Brooke that has led the Dragons to the state championship. Even in the win over Greely, there were moments provided by several Dragons that put Brunswick over the top.

“It is not just Madeline with 22, Brooke with eight in the fourth quarter, it was Aidan (Sachs) scoring her four points after she was puking all day on Thursday. She hit two huge baskets. Charlotte (MacMillan) hits a shot after Sabrina (Armstrong) saves the ball. Every kid had a big game. The bench never quit. It was everybody,” said Farrell.

“We just realized in that moment that we could compete with Greely,” said Brooke. “They were number one and had only lost one game. We just had to realize that we could compete with them, and when Sabrina and Madeline hit those shots in the third quarter, I realized that I could too. We fed off what Madeline and Sabrina did, and knew we had nothing to lose.”

Prepping for Eagles

“Monday the seniors figured me out and knew we were having a movie with pizza and ice cream,” said Farrell as his team began preparing for Messalonskee. “They showed up, we watched Hoosiers, and that was relaxing. The rest of the week it is just the same old. I talked to (boys coach Todd) Hanson and he said this is the best week of the year. Just have fun. These girls are prepping for that next game. We haven’t looked past that next game. We don’t look ahead.”

“We still have yet to play our best game of basketball,” said Brooke. “Hopefully on Saturday we will lay it all out on the line. We lost in the first round last year, and this year we were excited to get back into the tournament. We know Brunswick girls basketball has never won a state title. I think this team bonded so much better than any team that I have been on.”

“It is going to be pretty crazy up there,” Madeline said.

In the fourth quarter against Greely, Farrell had the look of a coach that was certainly working hard, with his shirt untucked from his slacks, sweat on his brow, jumping up and down between cheering his team on and coming up with the right coaching decisions at the right times.

During his career, Farrell has transitioned from an intense coach into a leader that knows when to ruffle his team’s feathers, work the referees and help his team find success.

“Sam is such a great coach,” said Brooke. “When we go in at halftime, he yells, but it is understandable and gets us really excited to play. He has seniors that he can trust, and gets us to play with passion. That is number one.”

“I am the same way as a teacher,” said Farrell of his excitable nature. “I am emphatic, emotional, jump around in the classroom. I jump around on the sidelines. I have a passion for the kids and this group makes it easy.

“At practice just (Tuesday), I didn’t have to get on them. That senior leadership takes care of that. (Senior) Heather Kinee, a player that doesn’t get many minutes, she is a leader. I call her ‘the heavy.’ If you’re not doing your job, you have to deal with Heather, not me. That makes my job easier.”

For the Dragons, each dream of lifting the Gold Ball, symbolic of a Maine state basketball champion.

“It would be unexplainable. Just holding the plaque in the regional final game I shake when I think about it. I just can’t imagine what it will be like if we get that Gold Ball,” Brooke said.

For Messalonskee, the Eagles are searching for state title No. 2 (1987 Class B champs), having fell in their only Class A state final appearance (2009 loss to Deering).

Come Saturday, 1 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center, the final journey begins. About 90 minutes later, we will know the final result, with the Eagles or Dragons reaching their ultimate goal. One will rejoice, the other obviously sad.

But, no matter the result, the 2016/17 Brunswick Dragons have done their community proud.


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