PORTLAND—A 23-point performance by Mackenzie Holmes – a game-high that included a lead-stealer in the mid-third-quarter – wasn’t enough to propel the Rams past the Storm at the Cross Insurance Arena on Tuesday morning, Feb. 19. Julia Freeman added 21 as Scarborough outlasted Gorham 39-32 in the semifinals contest.

“We broke their pressure, which is good,” Holmes said of Scarborough. “I thought we did a good job defending them, for the most part. We just couldn’t convert on the offensive end, which I think was the killer in the end.”

“You know, you get to this time of the season, and limiting turnovers is something that’s huge,” Gorham head coach Laughn Berthiaume said. “I thought we struggled with that today. It makes it difficult to get into a flow, into a rhythm.”

Holmes kicked off the scoring, adding a three and then a two for a quick 5-0. The Rams maintained the upper-hand to 10-9 on further points by Holmes, as well as points by Olivia Michaud – on a free-throw – and Lauren Fotter, on a defensive rebound/end-to-end combo.

Holmes blocked and stole on Scarborough’s next possession, but the Storm picked off her upcourt pass, a takeaway that Julia Freeman converted on, giving her girls a 12-10 advantage. Gorham turned things around again a few minutes later, Holmes knocking down a three and Jacqui Hamilton following her up with a two for 19-18, but Scarborough immediately responded, Freeman hashing a pair of frees.

The buzzer thus tolled on the half with the scoreboard aglow in Scarborough’s favor, 20-19.

Key to Gorham’s efforts against a team they struggled with this winter was excellent inside defense. But Scarborough excels, shooting from the outside, so for the Rams to force the Storm back beyond the arc didn’t help as much as they needed it to. Scarborough put up six threes on the morning – almost half of their total points. 

“I thought we did a good job defending those low-odds shots, but then we couldn’t convert on the offensive end,” Holmes said. “And that was the reason we fell a little bit short.”

Even playing excellent defense, no team wants to spend too much time in their own end. “I felt like we played defense a lot longer than we needed to at times,” Berthiaume said.

The Storm held onto the lead through the start of the third, Kayla Conley and Madison Blanche both adding points. Holmes next pulled off a three-point play, before Adele Nadeau stole and dished to Olivia Michaud, who dished in turn to Holmes for two more. That put Gorham out front once again at 24-23, but only for mere moments – and for the last time.

Scarborough outpaced the Rams across the rest of the quarter, assembling a 9-2 run. Gorham’s lone basket looked skillful and stylish – Hamilton threaded a hard pass from outside-in, shunting the ball betwixt numerous bodies and into the waiting hands of Brylee Bishop, who dropped in two. But a lone basket, no matter how slick, still left the Rams down 32-26 at the dawn of the fourth.

Holmes denied a Scarborough shot as the home stretch got underway. She then grabbed an offensive rebound on the other end and converted for two, bringing her girls within four at 32-28. But the Storm burned brighter and hotter than Gorham did through the next several minutes: Conley, Freeman and Jocelyn Couture combined to close the contest with seven for their team, while the Rams managed just two more, a Holmes strike in the very waning moments. 39-32 the final.

“The girls played hard,” Berthiaume said. “That’s something that they do all the time. From one play to the next, they were doing what they could to regroup from a play that didn’t go right, but we just couldn’t string enough of them together in a row to get us any momentum.”

It’s fitting, perhaps, that Holmes scored the last points of the game, since it was also the superstar’s last game as a Ram. A senior, she graduates in June; next year, she takes up DI ball at Indiana University.

“Obviously, it’s tough right now,” Holmes said of the loss, and the end of her high school career. “But I have to take time to reflect on the great times I’ve had in that gym – I mean, the best and the worst moments of my life happened out there, and I’m thankful for all of them. They’ve made me grow as a person. I’ve met a lot of great people because of this sport.”

Gorham and Scarborough clashed twice in the regular season, and both times, the Storm got the better of the Rams: Scarborough won 50-36 on the road at Gorham on Dec. 21, and 44-36 when they welcomed the Rams on Jan. 10.

Gorham entered the tournament ranked third in AA South, at 12-6. The Rams dispatched No. 6 Sanford 56-37 in the quarters to earn a re-rematch with the Storm; they thus retire till next winter at 13-7.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Olivia Michaud battles a Scarborough opponent.

Lauren Fotter ascends into a two attempt.

Adele Nadeau fires off an outside jumper.

Brylee Bishop surveys her pass options, under pressure.

Jacqui Hamilton pulls the trigger on a two.

Mackenzie Holmes added 23 for the Rams, who nevertheless came up short against the Storm.

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