When asked for her goals this season back in early December, Mt. Ararat High girls’ basketball coach Julie Petrie said, “To be playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”

If that’s the case, then the Eagles of Topsham are going to be one tough out in the tournament.

Entering Thursday’s game against Biddeford, Mt. Ararat is 5-1 and ranked third in Class A South. Included in those wins are victories over Falmouth, one of the top teams in Class A South, and Yarmouth, one of the best teams in Class B South.

“I think a lot of our kids are stepping up every game,” said Petrie, in her third season with the Eagles. “Each game, we’ve had key contributions from everyone and have had underclassmen stepping up. We’re playing together, which is great, and we’re meshing well early on. But really, the key is we’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of kids.”

Leading the way is 6-foot-3 senior center Elsa Daulerio, one of the state’s top inside players. Bound for Bates College, she’s averaging 14.6 points and 9.5 rebounds and providing steady leadership.

“I’m really happy for her,” said Petrie. “She’s playing so physical and with confidence this year. She’s really come into her own. She’s a great kid, works hard every day, and that hard work is paying off for her.”

And she’s a great role model for some of the younger players. Mt. Ararat has three freshmen who contribute regularly. Cali Pomerleau is averaging seven points (second on the team) and Kennedy Lampert and Avery Beal are making big plays. Beal hit the winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime in a season-opening 54-51 victory over Marshwood. And Pomerleau? She had the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute of a 48-46 win over Falmouth, leading the way that game with 13 points.

Seniors Morgan Ruff and Madison Kinney and juniors Haliegh Hanson and Desneige Williams are also contributing offensively, defensively or rebounding.

“It’s nice to see things come together after putting in our system and having the kids for three years,” said Petrie. “They’re understanding how to do things and they’re passing that off to underclassmen. And we focus on team culture, too. That’s a big piece of our success.”

The Eagles’ lone blemish was a 56-46 loss to Morse on Dec. 30. Petrie said they’ll learn from it and move on. After last year, when the team went 7-5 in the shortened, non-tournament season, Petrie said it’s good to have something to play for this year. Mt. Ararat hasn’t advanced past the regional quarterfinals since 2013.

“We’re working harder to get better every day,” she said. “We’re excited and hopefully we’ll continue winning games.”

Morse has relied on its defense to produce three wins already this season after the Shipbuilders won only once three previous three years. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

MORSE HAD ITS biggest win in years on Dec. 30 when the Shipbuilders of Bath defeated Mt. Ararat, 56-46.

“I can’t recall the last time we had a victory over them,” said first-year head coach Ryan Maines. “Maybe a decade or so. I’m not sure. But it’s been a long time coming.”

Morse had only one win in the previous three years. Even after a 49-36 loss to Lincoln Academy on Tuesday, the Shipbuilders stood at 3-4 and in fifth place in Class A South.

“We are coming together,” said Maines. “Trying to build a program from the ground up has been challenging. But we’ve had a lot of support, tremendous community support. These kids, though young, are responding and working extremely hard. It’s been very rewarding.”

Like his father, the legendary Tom Maines, Ryan Maines stresses defense, defense and defense. It was especially effective in the win against Mt. Ararat.

“That was our best defensive effort of the year,” said Maines. “And our transition game was the best I’ve seen it, allowing us to get opportunities with clear looks at the basket and better shots.”

The Shipbuilders start three sophomores along with junior point guard Lanye Brewer, who played her freshman year at Brunswick. Brewer had 20 points in the win against Mt. Ararat. Senior Olivia Chabot added 10 points and a strong defensive game.

“We’re formulating leadership,” said Maines. “We’re finding leaders and voices on the floor.”

THE LAST TIME Cheverus was together as a full team was on Dec. 23, a 44-42 win over Lewiston that improved the Stags to 5-0 and atop the Class AA North standings. Since then, the Stags have been hit hard by COVID and have had their last four games postponed. Players have just started to return to practice and the Stags hope to play Portland on Saturday.

“We got a few kids back Monday, a couple more Tuesday,” said Coach Bill Goodman, noting that the Stags will play Deering next Tuesday in a make-up game. “I’m just hoping, for the entire state, that this big spike is almost over and that this dies down the next couple of weeks. As far as games and practices, we’re taking them one day at a time. I adjust my practices to the number of kids we have. And we hope to get the games in.

“We’re prepared to play back-to-back nights. I’ve told my AD do whatever you have to do to get the games in. No complaints from us.”

Cheverus is also without star sophomore guard Maddie Fitzpatrick, who suffered a broken thumb in the team’s second game of the season. Goodman said she isn’t expected back until early February. She has a cast and is doing what she can in practice.

“She’s an amazing player, an amazing kid,” said Goodman. “She’s the loudest cheerleader on the bench.”

GORHAM, TOP-RANKED in Class AA South with a 6-0 record, had its first game since Dec. 23 on Tuesday, beating Noble 91-32. The Rams have had three games postponed since Dec. 23, with Thornton Academy, Falmouth and Bonny Eagle. All were COVID-related.

“You’re really at the mercy of what’s around,” said Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume. “When a school calls and says they don’t have enough players, we have to keep practicing.”

Berthiuame said the Rams are looking at playing four games a week in the future, which “isn’t ideal.” He’s hoping to spread out the make-up games.

The positive part of it is his bench players have been showing great improvement in practicing against the starters every day. They accounted for 47 of the 91 points on Tuesday.

With COVID cases spiking, school officials are bracing for even more postponements.

Mt. Ararat Athletic Director Geoff Godo said his teams have been fortunate, with no postponements so far, but added, “The next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting.”

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