FREEPORT — The best girls’ basketball season at Freeport High in over four decades ended in the Class B South championship game last year.

The upstart Falcons were beaten by Lake Region, 42-34. And with four starters graduating, expectations weren’t necessarily high for the current season.

Yet, as the regional basketball tournaments are about to begin, Freeport is right back on center stage.

The Falcons, who don’t have a senior on their roster, finished the regular season 14-4 and in third place in Class B South. Their losses were to top-ranked Gray-New Gloucester (twice), fifth-ranked Wells and undefeated Class A power Greely.

To those on the outside, the Falcons certainly exceeded expectations.

But to first-year coach Seth Farrington it’s simply a result of the dedication and commitment of his players. There were times, he said, when there were over 20 players attending summer workouts.

“The players are just a great group of kids,” he said. “They work hard, they’re unselfish. They’re at everything, they’re committed. They’re a tight-knit group.

“All they care about is the scoreboard and that they have one more point than the other team.”

This is a resilient team. There have been at least seven games this year, according to Farrington, when the Falcons have either been tied or in a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. They’ve lost one.

“That tightness of the group makes a big difference on the floor with our product,” he said. “They put the needs of their teammates ahead of their own individual goals. When you do that, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

Farrington, too, has made a difference. Junior guard Caroline Smith, the lone returning starter from last year, said he has “sparked a new belief” among the players.

He’s given them confidence while bringing out their best ability. “He really encourages me, trying to get me to push myself and challenge myself in things I’m not comfortable doing,” said sophomore forward Rachel Wall. “He works every day with me to become a better player.”

Smith is undoubtedly the Falcons’ leader with team highs in points (18.1 per game) and assists (2.8) and second in rebounds (6.8) and steals (2.5).

Yet you’d never know she was the star. After she scored a career-high 35 points in a 49-41 win over Yarmouth last month, she first thanked her coach and teammates for putting her in position to do well.

“I compare her to (basketball Hall of Famer) Oscar Robertson,” said Farrington, who coached the boys’ team at Wiscasset last year. “She affects the game is so many ways. And her best attribute is that she doesn’t care about her own stats.”

Wall is the second-leading scorer with 10.9 points and leads the Falcons in rebounds with 7.7. Junior point guard Catriona Gould averages 5.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.5 assists.

Gould said the team gets along very well and that translates to more confidence and trust on the court. “We all believe in each other,” she said. “We trust each other.”

Freeport players often look to make the extra pass or help a teammate who might be struggling. “Everyone’s doing what’s best for the team,” said Smith.

Farrington said what has surprised him the most is how the team has learned how to win. “Tough games on the road, tough teams, great coaches,” he said. “Again, credit back to the kids – lunchbox mentality.”

Smith calls it “mental toughness.”

Having played with many of her teammates since the fifth grade, Smith isn’t surprised at the team’s success. “I knew everyone who didn’t play last year definitely had the ability to step up,” she said. “I don’t think the people on the outside knew how athletic and how good we could be. I think we’ve surprised a lot of people.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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