Emily Archibald. left, leads 9-2 Kennebunk with 21 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

When Kennebunk High’s girls’ basketball team began the season 1-2, Coach Rob Sullivan told his players to relax.

After winning 13 games and advancing to the Class A South semifinals a year ago, the Rams entered the season with higher expectations than they’d had in years. After all, this was a program that won just eight games over an eight-year stretch not so long ago.

“We came in with a lot of excitement,” said Sullivan, in his 24th season as Kennebunk’s head coach. “It was a case that they’ve been working and working and working to get to this point, where we could be one of the better teams. But I told them we’ve got to learn to play with a target on our backs, we were going to get the other team’s best effort every night.”

Since a 45-44 loss at Marshwood on Dec. 13, the Rams have run off eight consecutive wins. The latest was perhaps their signature victory of the last decade, a 49-45 win over two-time defending Class A state champion Greely on Tuesday that snapped the Rangers’ 48-game winning streak.

Standout junior forward Emily Archibald hit four foul shots in the final six seconds to secure the win, which lifted Kennebunk to second in Class A South.

“The kids played really well,” said Sullivan. “They executed the game plan. It was just a great game. Obviously, I can’t say enough about Greely. It’s fun to compete against them.”

Having seen Greely play a couple times, Sullivan knew his team had to be nearly perfect. The Rams played their zone defense effectively and got the ball inside to their taller players. Still, Greely came back from a seven-point deficit to tie it at 45 before a Rangers player was called for an intentional foul, giving Kennebunk two foul shots and the ball. Archibald, who had 24 points, clinched the victory with her four free throws.

“The kids dug in and made a few plays,” said Sullivan. “I was really impressed.”

The Rams have a special player in Archibald, who leads Kennebunk with 21 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. But she gets plenty of help. Alaina Schatzabel averages 9.0 points, and Isabella Okwuosa averages 7.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. Emily Hogue, who averages less than four points a game, scored 13 against Greely, including a huge 3-pointer late in the game.

This year’s senior class will play in the tournament for the fourth consecutive year. “We had our down time,” said Sullivan. “Now we’re back.”

TODD FLAHERTY, meanwhile, looks at the loss as a positive for his Greely girls, who are still securely holding the top spot in Class A South.

Asked about the mood of the team on the bus ride home, he said, “They certainly don’t like to lose. But I think by the end of the ride home, I sensed maybe a little bit of a relief that the whole streak thing was behind us and that we could now focus on getting better. I certainly slept better. Now we can go and get our goal, which is to play our best in the tournament and see where that takes us.”

Flaherty noted that the Rangers had escaped a couple times this year, with one-point wins over Class AA powers South Portland and Oxford Hills. He liked what he saw in the loss. “Things weren’t easy for us,” he said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and we didn’t get a lot of easy baskets. That’s a tribute to Kennebunk and its defense. But the girls showed a lot of grit and will to win down the stretch. That was refreshing to see.”

GRAY-NEW GLOUCESTER got a big win Tuesday, beating Yarmouth, 45-34, without standout senior center Jordan Grant, who suffered a sprained ankle in practice Monday.

Sophomore Emma West stepped in and scored 10 points with nine rebounds. Yarmouth had beaten the Patriots by 15 on Jan. 4.

Coach Mike Andreasen hopes to have Grant, who is closing in on 1,000 career points, back soon. But, he said, “The kids came out and played well without her. That’s pretty encouraging.”

GREELY SENIOR guard Brooke Obar has been nominated to play in the McDonald’s All American Games, one of the premier high school all-star events. Twenty-four girls from across the nation will be selected to play in the April 1 game.

“That’s great news,” said Flaherty. “She’s had a heck of a career, a four-year starter, two-year captain, off to Bentley (University). That’s impressive.”

Portland’s Amanda Kabantu drives down court as Gorham’s Olivia Michaud moves in on defense on Wednesday night in Gorham. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

THE PORTLAND GIRLS got back on track Wednesday after last Thursday’s loss at Bangor. Playing some of their best ball of the season, the Bulldogs raced out to a 20-3 first-quarter lead en route to a 52-31 win over Gorham.

The Bulldogs hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, dispelling the notion that they can’t shoot from the outside.

“We’re always working on our shots,” said Portland senior center Kiera Eubanks. “I think we proved tonight that we’re practicing it.”

Amanda Kabantu, who had 16 points, said defense and rebounding led to the offensive surge. “Our defense we played as a team, not as individuals,” she said. “And we went after the boards, which we didn’t do in Bangor.”

Portland did it without Coach Gerry Corcoran, who received two technicals in the Bangor loss and was thus unable to coach on Wednesday. Portland was coached by assistant Seth Ionta, a 1990 Portland grad.

He said the Bulldogs came out with a game plan that “started on the bus ride home from Bangor. It reflected on what we can do better. We executed the game plan and didn’t let up.”

Portland improved to 9-2 and showed it is a dangerous team.

“I think it was important for us, personally, to boost our confidence and to prove we’re a state championship worthy team,” said Eubanks. “Bangor was just a hiccup and we came back better than ever.”

Gorham, meanwhile, regrouped after that slow start and played well the rest of the way. What Coach Laughn Berthiaume is looking for is more consistency.

“We’re looking for consistent energy and effort on every possession,” he said.

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