The Freeport girls’ basketball team’s longest run on a playoff stage in more than 40 years will have at least one more performance.

The third-seeded Falcons used stifling defense to force 16 second-half turnovers and got just enough offense to beat second-ranked Poland 40-38 in a Class B South semifinal Thursday at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was Freeport’s first regional semifinal appearance since 1977. Next up? Freeport’s first regional final since 1976, the year it won the Class C state championship.

“They’re making great memories for themselves. These are moments they’ll never forget, and what an opportunity we have ahead of us,” said Coach Mike Hart.

Freeport (16-4) will play fourth-ranked Lake Region (15-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Lakers knocked off Gray-New Gloucester, the defending state champion and No. 1 seed, 34-31.

On Feb. 2, Freeport won at Lake Region, 59-47.

The Falcons’ disruptive full-court pressure defense and early inside scoring were key components against Poland (15-5). But Freeport may need better outside shooting (1 of 9 on 3-point attempts) and rebounding (Poland had a 25-14 edge) against Lake Region.

“And I’m pretty sure we’re going to work on end-of-game scenarios,” Hart said.

Hart was referring to an ill-advised pass with about six seconds remaining that Poland intercepted and turned into a shot for Jessica Seeley, who was called for traveling as her hurried shot missed.

“It was a travel,” said Poland Coach Tim Dolley.

When Nathalie Theriault of Poland fouled out with 4:08 to play, having scored 18 of her team’s 33 points with assists on four other baskets, it seemed to signal the end of the Knights’ hopes.

But Alyssa Gagne knocked down a 10- footer on her first shot of the game to cut Poland’s deficit to 36-35.

Taylor Rinaldi made two free throws for Freeport, but Allie Goodman missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have made it a two-possession game with a minute remaining.

Poland patiently worked the ball around until Gagne found Seeley on a cut to the basket as the Knights again pulled within a point.

Goodman then was fouled again and made both shots with 23 seconds left.

“Just have confidence in yourself. You’ve shot thousands of shots, all the hard work you’ve put in getting up at 5 a.m. to work out before practice. Just trust your shot,” said Goodman, who scored a team-high 13 points.

Seeley was fouled with 10 seconds left and made her first shot but missed the second, setting up the final flurry.

In the first half, both teams found success in the paint. Freeport looked to Jessie Driscoll (12 points) and Poland leaned on Theriault. There were three ties and three lead changes.

Caroline Smith’s three-point play and two Goodman baskets early in the third quarter gave Freeport a 31-23 lead, only to have Poland rally behind Theriault, who cut the margin to 35-33 with a three-point play with 4:48 remaining.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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