Eliza Hotham knew she wasn’t having a good shooting day. She also knew her team desperately needed a basket.

So when she got the ball to the left of the key, she never hesitated to let it fly.

Hotham’s 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining was the decisive basket as top-seeded Gray-New Gloucester won the Class B South girls’ basketball championship Saturday afternoon at Cross Insurance Arena with a 42-31 victory over third-seeded Freeport.

The Patriots (19-2) had seen an 18-point second-quarter lead dwindle to just six before Hotham’s basket. Gray-New Gloucester held on from there to advance to the state championship game for the third time in four years.

“It feels really good,” said Hotham, a junior forward. “We all really wanted this. It was definitely a team effort. We couldn’t have done it without every single one of us.”

The Patriots will play the Mt. Desert Island at 1 p.m. Saturday at the CIA. Freeport, playing in the regional final for the second consecutive year, finished 16-5, with three of the losses to Gray-New Gloucester.

“This is awesome,” said Patriots senior forward Bri Jordan. “It says a lot about our program and how much we’ve grown. We just work hard every day. And it’s showing.”

With Freeport struggling to get anything going early on – the Falcons were 0 for 7 in the first quarter, along with five turnovers – Gray-New Gloucester scored the first 11 points and led 17-2 after one quarter. The lead increase to 22-4 midway through the second quarter when Hotham hit a 3-pointer from the right corner.

“How we start, that’s on me,” said Freeport Coach Seth Farrington. “We did some stuff, we were probably overthinking it. I have to do better.”

But the Falcons scored the last seven points of the second quarter and trailed only 22-11.

“Once we got the lead, (our players) were very hesitant,” said Gray-New Gloucester Coach Mike Andreasen. “We stopped being aggressive and opened the door for them.”

Junior forward Caroline Smith, who scored 24 points and earned the Mike DiRenzo Award given to the regional tournament’s outstanding player, fueled the comeback. “Caroline’s a special kid,” said Farrington. “It’s amazing how she leads and how she conducts herself.”

Freeport pulled within nine after three quarters. When Smith scored on a 10-foot jumper along the left baseline with 3:39 remaining, it was 36-30.

Then the ball went inside to Jordan Grant, who led the Patriots with 14 points. She was quickly surrounded by three defenders and passed back out to Hotham. “As she shot, I remember praying, ‘Please,'” said Andreasen. “It looked good.”

It was a perfect shot, barely rippling the net, and the Patriots were up 39-30.

“I wasn’t really shooting my best the entire game, and at that point I just knew we needed that shot,” said Hotham, who finished with 11 points. “And so I was open and I took it, and I’m really glad it went in.”

Hotham was also guarding Smith at that point because Jordan, who scored 12 points, had four fouls. Hotham stole the ball in the final minute and hit a foul shot with 36 seconds left to help preserve the win.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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