AUGUSTA — The Winthrop girls’ basketball team was reeling, and Coach Joe Burnham called a timeout to have a quick talk with his players.

The message? Relax.

“I remember him saying something about how we were all nervous, and that since we were nervous, we were making weird mistakes,” junior guard Aaliyah WilsonFalcone said. “Rein yourselves in, calm yourselves down, and we’d get it done.”

The chat worked. Down 11 points just over two minutes into the game, No. 2 Winthrop rallied and eventually pulled away for a 50-41 win over No. 7 Old Orchard Beach in a Class C South quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.

Madison Forgue led the way with 14 points and six rebounds, including the basket that put the Ramblers (17-2) ahead for good. WilsonFalcone scored 13 points, nine coming in the fourth to help Winthrop create some distance.

“Winning this game was amazing. It was a total team effort, the chemistry was there,” Forgue said. “It was a great win for us.”

The Ramblers had to overcome 21 points from Shani Plante, and 11 rebounds and seven blocks from 6-foot-2 center Maggie Strohm.

“We were able to kind of keep our pace going back-and-forth, get back to a manageable deficit, and then kind of play basketball from there,” said Burnham. “Then in the fourth quarter, when they got in some foul trouble, we switched to a different press, threw a trap in there to give them some problems, and that kind of played into our favor.”

Winthrop trailed 12-1 after only 2:08, but fought back to make it 33-33 after three quarters. Forgue splashed a jumper and Natalie Frost had a putback to put Winthrop ahead 37-33, but a Plante 3-pointer from well beyond the arc cut the margin to 37-36 with 6:15 to go.

WilsonFalcone then hit a 3-pointer and got the roll on a jumper. After a basket by OOB’s Julia Clark, WilsonFalcone turned a steal into a three-point play, then got another steal and hit a free throw for a 46-38 lead with 3:14 left.

“I work hard, and I just remember, as their energy goes down, I kind of take their energy from them and I use it for myself,” said WilsonFalcone, who also had seven rebounds and three steals. “I pull off the team’s energy, the bench and the crowd.”

Burnham said WilsonFalcone’s tenacity makes an impact late in games.

“We play best when our defense leads to our offense, and that’s where Aaliyah kind of took over the game in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Any loose ball, any rebound, you would have thought she was 6-2 tonight. She goes in there and she’s not afraid of anything.”

Strohm dominated inside for Old Orchard Beach (12-8), turning aside inside attempts and beating Winthrop’s undersized players to rebounds. She and Plante combined for nine of OOB’s first 12 points, and the Ramblers appeared dazed as Burnham called his timeout.

“We called a timeout, kind of slowed us down, talked about taking the extra half-second on everything here,” he said, “because this building tends to speed you up.”

As the game went on, Winthrop began to figure out its opponent. Strohm had seven points and nine rebounds by halftime, but was then blanked in both categories until the final minute of the fourth.

“We made a halftime adjustment to three-quarter guard her, instead of completely going over the top, where they just kept lobbing the ball over the top of our shorter girls,” Burnham said. “Natalie Frost played some great defense on her, but it was a good team defensive effort.”

On the offensive end, Forgue helped keep the Ramblers afloat, scoring six second-quarter points as Winthrop worked its way to a 22-21 halftime deficit.

“She certainly is one of our most talented offensive players,” Burnham said. “We’ve just got to get her going. When she gets in a rhythm, she does some really special things.”

Winthrop had more plays in store in the fourth.

“We were definitely nervous. It’s our first time here as a team, and we were all nervous,” Forgue said. “But we definitely overcame that and gave it all we had.”


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