BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL girls basketball coach Sam Farrell talks to his team during a second-half timeout in Saturday’s Class A State Championship game at the Augusta Civic Center. The Dragons fell to Messalonskee, 58-33.

BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL girls basketball coach Sam Farrell talks to his team during a second-half timeout in Saturday’s Class A State Championship game at the Augusta Civic Center. The Dragons fell to Messalonskee, 58-33.

AUGUSTA

A couple weeks ago at the Class A South Regional Final in Portland, it was just the Brunswick High School girls basketball team’s night. The Dragons put up a 3- pointer and it went in. The ball rolled on the rim and always fell through. They turned the ball over and Greely didn’t capitalize.

SABRINA ARMSTRONG (14) of Brunswick sends a pass to the corner while Messalonskee’s Allyssa turner presses.

SABRINA ARMSTRONG (14) of Brunswick sends a pass to the corner while Messalonskee’s Allyssa turner presses.

A 14-point deficit was rapidly erased in the second half and it was just Brunswick’s night.

If the regional final belonged to the Dragons, Saturday’s Class A State Championship game (a 58-33 loss) in Augusta belonged to Messalonskee. Those same shots that needed a bit of help from the rim rolled out. Turnovers turned into Messalonskee points and the Eagles responded with baskets at all the right times.

This one wasn’t Brunswick’s night.

Hot and cold

The occasion of a state championship seemed to overwhelm both teams in the opening couple minutes of the game, with a few sloppy giveaways and no points. If Brunswick (18-4) was going to stick around, that was the type of game it needed to be. But as soon as Makayla Wilson rattled in a trey to open the scoring, Messalonskee (22-0) caught fire.

The Dragons made just one shot in the first four minutes and were quickly down 10-2.

“I think both teams came out a little off of what they were doing. It was flat,” Brunswick coach Sam Farrell said. “Then the emotion picked up. I don’t know if it was nerves — just not making them. We’ve had that before, but normally our defense can pick it up. They were hitting everything.”

It wasn’t just that Brunswick was missing some shots. Three times, the Dragons uncharacteristically threw up air balls — twice on wide-open looks. Three open lay-ins down low didn’t fall.

The 10-2 lead soon turned to 17-2 and then 29-13 at the half.

“Probably a little bit,” Brunswick guard Charlotte MacMillan said of nerves playing a role in the slow start. “I just think the shots really weren’t falling. I think that was the difference.”

Rightfully so, it was also very clear that the Dragons really wanted this one. Especially as the deficit grew and the Messalonskee defense kept clamping down, they wanted nothing more than to erase another large lead and cap off the dream-like postseason run.

On some possessions, it might have proved costly. For every wide-open look there was a contested, plan

“I don’t know if nerves were a part of it,” Armstrong said. “It wasn’t that we were nervous, we were just rushing everything because we wanted to do so well. We were like pushing the ball and forcing shots. We just needed to calm down and I don’t think we ever took a deep breath and got into the game.”

Part of that was Messalonskee’s doing. The Eagles saw the Greely game and knew how dangerous Armstrong and Madeline Suhr can be from outside. They were ready for it.

“We really focused on how well they shot the ball,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “Especially against Greely. Madi Suhr was just phenomenal in that game. Sabrina (Armstrong) will shoot with someone right on her. We really focused the last two days on getting out on shooters aggressively — to take those nerves and make them even more uncomfortable.”

The stage

Nervous or not, Saturday’s stage was a first-timer for Brunswick. Cross Insurance Arena in Portland is one thing, but in Augusta, the fans are right on top of the floor. It’s compact, it’s loud and for a state championship game, it’s packed to the gills.

For every Messalonskee 3- pointer, there was a roar of thousands.

“They had practice here this week, but they’ve never really gotten to play with this many people in here,” Messalonskee guard Sophie Holmes said of the Dragons.

The Eagles, on the other hand, seemed to be comfortable in that environment. The shots kept falling. When Brunswick put together a mini-run at the end of the first quarter, the Class A North champs responded with a 10-0 run of their own.

In fact, nearly every time the Dragons got the other side of the Civic Center crowd into the game, Messalonskee answered. It came from everyone on the floor and it never really stopped. As Holmes said, “When you have a team that is so deep, you don’t feel the pressure.”

For that, Derosby credits Messalonskee athletics.

“We have some phenomenal athletes in our schools,” Derosby said. “Phenomenal basketball players. Our girls lacrosse team last year won states. We have field hockey perennially going deep in the playoffs and playing in championship games. Our soccer team, our track program. We have so many healthy programs in our school that we have athletes that have been in those big moments.

“There were some nerves, some anxiety and some tension, but they were able to harness it and not let it dictate how they play.”

The normally stout Brunswick defense simply had no answer. Maybe there wasn’t one.

“They move the ball so well and they don’t get phased,” Farrell said of Messalonskee. “Sophie (Holmes) missed some shots early and then she nails one. They kick it to a kid and of the four you’re like ‘you’re good, you shoot it.’ It goes in. They just hit everything.”

Still, the Dragons didn’t let up. Armstrong hit three treys in the second half and Brooke Barter (game-high 11 best rebounds) kept pounding the glass. Suhr notched 10 points and kept driving to the hoop until the end.

That part of Brunswick’s game was there all season. The 23.2 percent shooting percentage and 3-of-11 mark from the free-throw line wasn’t.

“It was just a bad day to be an off shooting day,” Farrell said.

Sometimes, it’s just not your night.


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