GORHAM — The first loss, by a point to Portland, came on a banked 3-pointer with three seconds left. That ended a 47-game winning streak for Gorham High’s girls’ basketball team.

Then came a four-point loss to Greely. That was followed by a four-point loss to Cheverus, then a nine-point loss to Maine Girls’ Academy.

Coach Laughn Berthiaume didn’t get frustrated by his team’s four-game losing skid in early January. He knew the season, coming off back-to-back Class AA state titles, was going to have ups and downs. Only two starters returned – senior forward Michelle Rowe and junior center Mackenzie Holmes – and two freshmen were going to play prominent roles – guards Adele Nadeau and Olivia Michaud.

Yes, there were things the Rams had to do better – such as protecting the ball against full-court pressure – but overall Berthiaume liked what he was seeing, especially from Rowe, Holmes and Courtney Brent, a junior guard who was a reserve last year.

“When we went through that stretch when we were not winning, they didn’t let it devastate the younger players,” said Berthiaume. “They were positive through that, and they came in each day ready to work. They did a very good job not allowing it to get them down, and the younger kids were able to see that, that we were all in this together. And that was a big confidence builder for us.”

The Rams lost three more games, learning from each one. And now they’re back in the championship spotlight.

Gorham (14-7) will play Edward Little (14-7) for the Class AA championship at 6 p.m. Friday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. It will be a rematch of the 2016 title game won by Gorham, 46-36.

The Rams still rely heavily on Holmes, a 6-foot-2 center who is drawing interest from several NCAA Division I schools. She leads them in scoring (21.0 points per game), rebounding (13.2), steals (2.9) and blocked shots (5.2). She’s the player the Rams look to for the big play.

But Holmes has learned to trust her young teammates. Nadeau and Michaud combined for 20 points in a Class AA South semifinal win over top-seeded South Portland, and 19 points in the regional final against No. 2 Scarborough.

“We knew there would be growing pains, we were a young team,” said Holmes. “We felt if we could get past that bit of adversity, big things could happen. Obviously, no one likes to lose. Our returners weren’t used to losing. So I think it gave us a little more of a drive to be where we are right now.”

Michaud said she and Nadeau gained confidence from playing with the older Rams.

“Honestly, it’s great, in other experiences in sports, the upperclassmen are scary and you don’t want to talk to them,” said Michaud. “But Mackenzie and Michelle are our friends, they’re our teammates. They pick us up and give us so much confidence, and I definitely would not be able to do it without them.”

Edward Little Coach Chris Cifelli isn’t surprised the Rams are in the state final. Gorham defeated the Red Eddies, 48-36, on Jan. 23. Cifelli saw the Rams developing into a dangerous team.

“They’re very confident,” he said. “Laughn does a good job of putting those kids in a position to be successful. They’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Eddies are playing well, too. Jade Perry is an underrated star, an inside-outside threat. Grace Fontaine and Hannah Chaput can create havoc on the perimeter. It’ll be an interesting matchup, for sure.

“That’s not a team that’s going to give up,” said Berthiaume. “They compete right to the end.”

As do the Rams.

“This is a team that doesn’t give up,” said Rowe. “We know we can do it. We just have to show that we can do it.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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