Marshwood High’s Casey Perry had 15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals in the Class A South final against Greely last week. Perry was named the regional’s outstanding player and lifted the Hawks to their first state championship game in 25 years. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

SOUTH BERWICK — A year ago, Casey Perry’s junior season on the Marshwood High girls’ basketball team ended after three games because she need surgery on her injured left shoulder. She attended every practice, worked on her passing and ball-handling skills, and gained a new perspective, not just on basketball but on herself.

She realized she had more to give.

“When you go out there, play as hard as you can,” she said at practice earlier this week. “I know that now. Before that, like in my sophomore year, I would find myself thinking, ‘I’m not that tired,’ after a game, or I would have a regret, like I didn’t get on the floor after that ball. After I had my season ended, it kind of made me realize I can’t have those moments and I need to go there and play as hard as you can.”

Perry, now a 5-foot-11 senior forward, has done just that this season. And Marshwood will play in a state championship game for the first time in 25 years. The Hawks, who won the Class B state title in 1995, meet Hampden Academy in the Class A state championship game at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

Perry was named the outstanding player of the Class A South tournament. The Hawks defeated two-time defending state champion Greely, 47-44, in the regional final, as Perry collected 15 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and four assists.

“We knew we could do it,” said Perry, who will continue her playing career at Brandeis University, where she plans to study premed with hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. “We lost a lot of players (14 from the previous year), but our core knew it, our coaches knew it. I feel we were kind of doubted a bit, by newspapers and the teams to watch. But having that doubt gave us a chip on our shoulders.”

Marshwood lost in the regional semifinals each of the past three years. Coach Steve Freeman, in his fourth year with the Hawks, said Perry is the missing piece.

“She does so much for us,” he said. “She doesn’t have to score and she’s the best player on the court. She anchors our defense. We couldn’t play the way we do without her. Her length is disruptive, she’s athletic. She’s smart. She knows where she should be and exactly where everyone else should be.”

Perry is one of three Hawks who average at least nine points a game – senior guard Angelina Bisson averages a team-high 14 points – and she leads the team in rebounds (nine per game), assists (four) and steals (four). Perry and senior forward Kayla Goodwin can play outside or inside, providing tough matchups for opponents.

But Perry’s contributions to Marshwood’s success extend far beyond statistics. “Her leadership this year is better,” said Goodwin, who averages nine points and eight rebounds. “She’s very encouraging on the court, especially to the younger players.”

“I just tell them, when you go out there, play as hard as you can,” said Perry. “If this is the sport you want to play in college, you can’t have those moments when you don’t play as hard as you can, because you never know how many (moments) you’ll have left.”

Perry’s presence in the middle of Marshwood’s hybrid defense – guards Bisson and Rori Coomey play man-to-man while Goodwin, Lexi McGee and Perry play a triangle zone, with Perry at the point – is pivotal. “She makes a huge difference,” said Coomey. “She makes incredible blocks and is there to help us if needed. And she’s the main communicator, always letting us know what’s happening.”

Perry stresses that Marshwood’s success is a team function. “A lot of the younger kids have played hard, a lot of kids have stepped up defensively,” she said. “Even though some of the girls don’t get many minutes, they’re still on the bench cheering us on. They’re into the game, giving us that energy boost that we need in the third quarter to get through. Everyone has a role.”

Freeman liked this team’s chances as far back as last summer. But he never let the players think too far ahead.

“We never talked about winning this or winning that,” he said. “We just talked about lengthening the season as long as we could so we could stay together as long as possible. Now look where they are. You can’t play any longer than they’re about to.”

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