BOX SCORE

Hall-Dale 63 North Yarmouth Academy 56

NYA- 19 19 8 10- 56
HD- 8 18 20 17- 63

NYA- English 9-1-19, C. Harper-Cunningham 4-2-12, Huntsman 4-3-12, Onorato 3-0-7, Reid 2-0-4, Bila 1-0-2

HD- Trepanier 5-6-19, Wills 4-3-13, Madore 3-3-10, Platt 3-2-8, Baker 2-0-5, Gilbert 0-2-2, Graham 1-0-2, Greenhaigh 1-0-2, Ireland 1-0-2,

3-pointers:
NYA (4) Harper-Cunningham 2, Huntsman, Onorato 1
HD (7) Trepanier 3, Wills 2, Baker, Madore 1

Turnovers:
NYA- 21
HD- 15

FTs
NYA: 6-15
HD: 16-22

Advertisement

AUGUSTA—The first half was a dream come true.

The second?

An absolute nightmare.

North Yarmouth Academy’s third-ranked girls’ basketball team was nearly perfect in the first eight minutes of Saturday morning’s Class C South Final against undefeated, top-ranked Hall-Dale at the Augusta Civic Center, racing to a 19-8 first quarter lead behind the pinpoint passing of junior point guard extraordinaire Angel Huntsman and eight points from junior Sarah English.

Then, on three different occasions in the second period, the Panthers went up by 18 points, the last at 30-12 on an English layup with 4:40 to go, but the sharpshooting Bulldogs began to heat up and cut the deficit to 38-26 at halftime.

NYA’s offense slowed down in the third quarter, but the Panthers were still up by 11 points, 45-34, with just over three minutes remaining, when Hall-Dale, sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from senior KK Wills, roared back. Wills’ second 3 gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, but a late free throw from Huntsman not only snapped a 12-0 Hall-Dale run, but also tied the contest, 46-46, heading for the final stanza.

Advertisement

And there, just 50 seconds in, junior Amanda Trepanier hit a long 3 to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay and while the Panthers fought valiantly to the final horn, they just couldn’t make enough big plays and after another Trepanier 3 found the mark (after bouncing off the rim first), Hall-Dale put the finishing touches on its 63-56 victory.

Trepanier led the way with 19 points and Wills added 13 as Hall-Dale improved to a perfect 21-0, ended NYA’s terrific season at 17-3 and advanced to the Class C state final next Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center, against either Stearns (14-3), Penobscot Valley (16-3), Hodgdon (16-3) or Dexter (12-6).

“(Hall-Dale’s) just a really good team,” said Panthers coach Tom Robinson. “I was just waiting for the run because they’re such a good shooting team. It came down to layups and fastbreaks and they don’t miss those. They picked up the intensity and we got tired.”

Back and forth

North Yarmouth Academy’s program has been ascendant in recent years, reaching the regional final in 2019 and after a solid, albeit COVID-abbreviated campaign last winter, the Panthers came into the 2021-22 season believing they could make a deep run.

And they did.

Advertisement

NYA won 14 of 16 regular season games, losing only at reigning Class B champion Wells and at Class A South top-seed Brunswick.

The Panthers had no trouble with No. 14 Monmouth in the preliminary round (64-20), then beat No. 6 Kents Hill (52-33) in the quarterfinals Tuesday in Augusta, before returning to the Capital City Thursday to dispatch second-ranked Carrabec (42-28).

Hall-Dale, meanwhile, has been perfect and dominant. The Bulldogs squeaked past Carrabec by two points in their opener, then won their final 16 regular season games by an average of 36 points. Hall-Dale won games by margins of 81-7, 95-20, 90-25, 71-15, 67-18 and 73-32.

After defeating No. 16 Sacopee Valley (64-21) in the preliminary round, the Bulldogs ousted No. 8 Traip Academy (50-36) in the quarterfinals and held off No. 5 Old Orchard Beach (48-42) in Thursday’s semifinals.

NYA and Hall-Dale didn’t play this winter.

Two years ago, in the teams’ lone prior playoff encounter, the Panthers prevailed, 63-55, in the Class C South preliminary round.

Advertisement

Saturday’s contest was moved up to Monday morning due to a backlog at the Augusta Civic Center caused by bad weather Friday and a vocal, good-sized crowd got to witness a memorable affair.

The Panthers couldn’t have asked for a better start, as they opened up a surprising double-digit first quarter lead.

North Yarmouth Academy junior Angel Huntsman is defended by Hall-Dale sophomore Hayden Madore early in the Bulldogs’ 63-56 come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Class C South Final. Hoffer photo.

Just 23 seconds in, sophomore Graca Bila set up junior Erin Reid for a layup and the next time down the floor, Huntsman set up Reid for a short jumper and a quick 4-0 lead.

Hall-Dale got on the board on a layup from senior Averi Baker, but the next 11 points went to NYA, as Huntsman found English for a layup and her first points, Hutsman set up Bila for a layup, English scored on a putback, Bila kept possession with an offensive rebound and found junior Madilyn Onorato for a 3 and Bila set up English for a layup and a stunning 15-2 lead with 2:49 to go in the opening stanza, forcing Bulldogs coach OJ Jaramillo to call timeout.

It helped, as senior Wills made two free throws to snap the run and a 4 minute, 6 second scoring drought and Wills added a driving layup, but the Panthers broke the Hall-Dale press and Bila set up English for another layup.

After a jumper from Bulldogs sophomore KJ Greenhaigh, Huntsman capped the first period in style with a step-back jumper at the horn to make it 19-8.

Advertisement

English had eight points in the frame and NYA forced six turnovers.

The Bulldogs started to heat up in the second period, but the Panthers eventually added a point to their lead by quarter’s end.

The Panthers opened the second quarter as they did the first with seven quick points, as Huntsman hit a jumper, Huntsman converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul and free throw) and after Bila grabbed an offensive rebound, Onorato knocked down a jumper for a 26-8 advantage.

Sophomore Audrey Gilbert scored Hall-Dale’s first two points of the period from the line, but junior Charlotte Harper-Cunningham countered with a bank shot.

After Trepanier banked home a runner for her first points, Huntsman set up English for a layup, but the Bulldogs got their first 3, from Trepanier, and after English scored on a runner, sophomore Hayden Madore and Baker drilled consecutive 3s before Trepanier was fouled shooting a long 3. Trepanier made just one of three attempts, but just like that, Hall-Dale was within 10, 32-22.

Huntsman then restored order with a long 3 and Onorato added a jumper to push the lead back to 15.

Advertisement

Trepanier countered with two free throws and freshman Jade Graham made a jumper for the Bulldogs, but a late free throw from Huntsman made it 38-26 at the half.

English led the way with 12 points while Huntsman added 11 in the first half.

NYA’s offense slowed down in the third quarter and Hall-Dale made its move.

North Yarmouth Academy’s Madilyn Onorato, left, can’t catch up with Hall-Dale’s Amanda Trepanier during the Bulldogs’ rally. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

After senior Iris Ireland opened the second half with a free throw for the Bulldogs, English made one for the Panthers.

Junior Rita Benoit then hit a jumper for Hall-Dale, but Huntsman delivered a beautiful no-look pass on the break that set up English for a layup and a 41-29 lead.

Trepanier then was fouled on a 3-pointer and this time, sank all three attempts. Huntsman set up English for a jumper, but Trepanier made a layup after a steal.

Advertisement

The Panthers continued to counter-punch on a layup from English, from Bila, but the next dozen points went to the Bulldogs, as they completely flipped the game on its ear.

The run started with a three-point play from senior Lily Platt. Next, Wills buried a 3. After a three-point play from Madore, Wills drilled a 3 from up top with 42.2 seconds showing and for the first time, the Bulldogs led, 46-45.

“Their 1-3-1 (zone) really took us out of our rhythm,” said Jaramillo. “Not until the second half did we get more comfortable with it and started to get the (ball) reversals. Hayden, Wills, Trepanier, if one of them warms up, they all feed off each other.”

Huntsman then ended the run with a free throw with 14.2 seconds to go and the game went to the fourth period deadlocked, 46-46.

And there, Hall-Dale showed why it’s undefeated and top-ranked by making the plays to survive and advance.

Just 50 seconds in, Trepanier sank a long, contested 3 to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.

Advertisement

Madore then got free for a layup and while Harper-Cunningham was able to put back a miss at the other end, Hall-Dale extended its lead to seven on a leaner from Platt and a Platt putback.

Harper-Cunningham sank two free throws with 4:30 to go to pull the Panthers within five, but Wills stole the ball and made a layup to stretch the lead back to seven.

With 3:21 on the clock, Harper-Cunningham took a pass from Huntsman and drained a clutch 3, but at the other end, in a sign that it was going to be Hall-Dale’s day, Wills set up Trepanier for a 3 from the corner, which hit the rim, flew high into the air, then gently dropped into the basket and kissed the net for a 60-53 advantage.

“For us, all it takes is to hit one shot, get the ball moving and get everyone involved and feed off each other’s energy,” said Trepanier. “On that one, I was just praying and it was answered.”

NYA refused to buckle, as Harper-Cunningham made a 3 with 1:47 to go.

The Panthers got the ball back, but turned it over.

Advertisement

Harper-Cunningham then stole the ball and NYA came within inches of pulling within one when a Huntsman 3 appeared on target, but it went in and out and Trepanier got the rebound.

With 46 seconds remaining, Wills went to the line and made the first of a one-and-one. She missed the second, but the Panthers turned the ball back over.

Then, with 29.7 seconds left, two Madore free throws put it away and at 11:17 a.m., Hall-Dale got to celebrate its 63-56 victory.

Hall-Dale celebrates its imminent victory Saturday morning. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

“This is probably the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Wills said. “It’s really special. They hit almost everything it felt like (in the first half), so we knew we had to shoot because we’re such good shooters. Then, they started falling. We knew they’d probably be the toughest team we’ve played and it showed, but I’m so proud of how we came back.”

“I’m so excited for our team,” Trepanier said. “Right at the beginning of the season, I knew it was going to be a great year and I knew we would come out of it with a win today. We knew they would be a challenge and that they were probably the best team we’ve played so far.”

“That was a roller-coaster,” added Jaramillo. “We did get tested a few times this year, but nothing even close to this level on this stage. I knew we wouldn’t quit, but my concern was, was there enough time? We’ve been in some tight games and going into the fourth quarter, if we’re close, I believe we’re going to take it, just because of our depth and speed. Most teams can’t run with us and they don’t go super-deep in their bench. I knew we had the legs and the endurance, but the first half, we really weren’t looking for our shots. They’re really good getting the ball down low to the block and we really preach basket-line (defense) and helping, but we weren’t making the second rotation, so we had to do that.”

Advertisement

Trepanier not only led the Bulldogs with 19 points, she also had seven rebounds and five steals. Wills added 13 points and four assists and Madore also finished in double figures with 10 points. Platt had eight points and six rebounds, Baker had five points and five rebounds and Gilbert, Graham, Greenhaigh and Ireland all added two points.

Hall-Dale made 16-of-22 free throws and overcame 15 turnovers.

The Bulldogs don’t know their opponent for the state game just yet, but rest assured, they’re up for the challenge.

Even if they start slowly.

“I’m just ready for states,” Trepanier said. “I have so much confidence in this team.”

“It’s incredible to play in the state final,” said Wills.

Advertisement

“This is something we’ve talked about with this group since third and fourth grade,” Jaramillo said. “I didn’t expect to be in this position this year. These kids are so tight. This is something we’ve all dreamed about. We get another week of practice. We travel well. I full expect this place to be packed next Saturday.”

NYA captains Lila Jackson (11) and Angel Huntsman receive the runner-up trophy. Hoffer photo.

Next year’s favorite?

For NYA, English impressed with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

“Sarah had a great game,” Robinson said. “She’s only been here one year and if she works hard this summer, she’ll be incredible next year.”

Harper-Cunningham nearly sparked a late rally with some clutch shooting and wound up with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Then, there was the magical Huntsman, who scored 12 points and dished out eight assists, while grabbing six rebounds and registering a couple steals, while impressing all on hand.

Advertisement

“Angel’s a college-level player,” said Robinson. “She’s unbelievable.”

“We’ve seen some point guards who can do a lot of things, but she’s unique in that she can shoot, she can pass, she can dribble and she’s got speed,” Jaramillo said. “Our goal was to hold her to 10 points and five assists. She was cranking in the first half, but she didn’t have big plays in the second half.”

Onorato had seven points, six rebounds and two blocks and Bila added two points, seven rebounds and six assists.

NYA had a 48-34 rebound advantage, but only made 6-of-15 free throws and turned the ball over 21 times.

“I think our first half was the way we can play, but I knew we wouldn’t shoot like that all game,” Robinson said. “Amanda hit some shots and played tough. It’s a tough atmosphere. It was like a road game. A few breaks didn’t go our way, but this was a great team with fun kids.”

The Panthers only graduate one senior, Lila Jackson, so they should be right back in the hunt next season, battling for a title, and they’ll be tough to deny in 2023.

“I told the girls I know it hurts now, but if we get 10 percent better, we’ll get back here next year,” Robinson said. “Next year, we’ll try to beef up our schedule. It would be great to play teams like Greely, Freeport, Yarmouth or Gray (New Gloucester), since they’re so close. Our goal is to get back here and finish the job. It’s got to be the toughest tradition in sports to sit there and watch the other team jump and down. Next year, we want to be on the other side of that.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Comments are not available on this story.