FREEPORT—Senior Angel Pillsbury is soft spoken, but she’s been a tremendous leader this winter for Freeport’s girls’ basketball team.

Pillsbury, the Falcons’ lone senior, has also emerged as a stone-cold assassin with the ball in her hands and that was never more evident than in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s home tilt versus rival Yarmouth.

A back-and-forth first period set the tone and ended with Freeport on top by a point, 10-9. The Clippers momentarily went ahead by four, 18-14, on a layup from junior Cate King midway through the second quarter, but by halftime, the Falcons retook the lead, 21-20, thanks to a late foul shot from sophomore Maddie Cormier.

The third period then featured seven lead changes with three points being the biggest spread and it ended deadlocked at 35-35 after sophomore Sydney Gelhar drove and banked home a shot with 3 seconds to go.

When senior Delia MacDonald opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, Yarmouth was back on top, but Pillsbury took over from there, scoring 10 straight points herself, including a rarely-seen five-point possession, and Freeport never looked back en route to a 54-46 victory.

Pillsbury scored a game-high 23 points as the Falcons improved to 4-6, dropping the Clippers to 4-5 in the process.


“It’s a huge win, a rivalry win,” said Freeport coach Seth Farrington. “It’s Yarmouth and Freeport. It’s always fun to coach in these games and I’m sure it’s fun to play in. It means a lot to the girls.”

Fits and starts

Yarmouth opened with a 49-43 home win over York in a playoff rematch, then fell at Mt. Ararat (52-40), at home to Westbrook (59-48) and at Wells (58-43). The Clippers then won three straight, 53-35 over visiting Fryeburg Academy, 53-43 at Greely and 48-38 over visiting Leavitt, but Friday, in a makeup game, Yarmouth lost at Lake Region (69-48).

Freeport, meanwhile, started with a 39-27 setback at Gray-New Gloucester, then got in the win column at home over Morse (53-30) before falling at powerhouse Brunswick (73-39). After handling visiting Fryeburg Academy (66-37), the Falcons lost at Greely (50-46, in overtime) and Lake Region (47-21) and after downing visiting Poland (66-43), they fell at home to Mt. Ararat (53-31) and Thursday at Wells (47-30).

Last year, the Clippers took both meetings, 65-45 at home and 53-50 in Freeport.

Saturday, Yarmouth sought its sixth straight victory in the series, but instead, the Falcons beat the Clippers for the first time since Feb. 1, 2020.


Cormier opened the scoring with two free throws, then junior Neena Panozzo scored Yarmouth’s first points on a layup.

Pillsbury then went coast-to-coast for a layup for her first points, but junior Lauren Keaney countered with a 3-point shot for the Clippers’ first lead.

After Freeport freshman Emily Groves and King traded layups, Pillsbury tied the score with a free throw and Gelhar scored her first points, on a 3-pointer from the corner.

It appeared the Falcons would be up by three after one period, but as time expired, Panozzo was fouled while throwing up a prayer of a 3-pointer and she made two of three free throws to make it 10-9 Falcons after eight minutes.

Pillsbury fed Gelhar for a layup in transition to start the second quarter, but Yarmouth junior Maya Hagerty made a layup, Hagerty converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and Keaney sank a 3 to make it 16-12 Clippers.

After Cormier countered with a bank shot, Hagerty set up King for a layup to restore the four-point advantage.


Pillsbury then scored on a runner in the lane, but Hagerty countered with a short jumper.

Freeport then closed the half strong, as Pillsbury made two foul shots, freshman Abbie Cormier, who gave the Falcons some great minutes off the bench, tied it with two free throws and Maddie Cormier sank one more to give Freeport a slim 21-20 lead at the break.

In the first 16 minutes, the teams combined for 27 turnovers and Pillsbury led all scorers with seven points.

Her second half would be even more prolific.

It took two minutes to break the third quarter scoring ice before Hagerty made a free throw. Groves then put the Falcons on top by making a layup after a steal, but MacDonald countered with a 3.

The back-and-forth continued, as Gelhar drove for a layup, Keaney scored on a putback, Maddie Cormier made a pretty ball fake in the lane, then banked a shot home with her left hand and MacDonald sank a foul shot to tie it, 27-27.


After Pillsbury sank her first 3, Hagerty made a layup after a nice fake, then, after a Panozzo steal, Hagerty set up Keaney for a 3-pointer in transition to make it 32-30 Yarmouth.

Pillsbury immediately countered with a 3 from up top, but Panozzo hit a 3 for the Clippers before Gelhar’s driving bank shot sent the game to the final stanza tied at 35-35.

When Panozzo set up MacDonald for a 3-pointer 49 seconds into the fourth period, it looked like it might be Yarmouth’s day, but Pillsbury had other ideas.

Twelve seconds later, after receiving a pass from Gelhar, Pillsbury calmly buried a 3 from the corner to tie the score for the sixth and final time.

Then, with 6:10 remaining, Pillsbury drove for a layup and Freeport was finally on top for good.

The Falcons got the ball right back and gained some breathing room, as Pillsbury took a pass from Groves and sank a 3 and she was fouled after the play and as a result, earned a one-and-one opportunity and she sank both free throws to complete a five-point possession and make it seven points in five seconds for a 45-38 lead.


“(Shooting’s) a confidence thing,” Pillsbury said. “If one goes in, I have confidence to keep shooting. I knew I just had to put those (free throws) in. I’ve had a tough year at the foul line, but I put them in.”

“That was a huge play and allowed us to play a little more comfortably,” Farrington said.

The Clippers had chances to stem the tide, but both Keaney and Hagerty missed the front end of one-and-ones and Gelhar capped the 12-0 surge with a driving layup with 4:59 remaining.

“I try to be a good teammate, since I’m surrounded by a lot of good ones,” said Gelhar. “We share the ball really well. Coach is always telling me to drive to the basket. The momentum and energy was really good and I thought I could do that and my teammates backed me up.”

Thirty-five seconds later, a Panozzo bank shot ended the run, but Groves got a point back at the line.

Freshman Ella Cameron made a short jumper with 2:40 on the clock to pull Yarmouth within six, 48-42, but Gelhar made a free throw, then Pillsbury set up Groves for a fastbreak layup and a nine-point advantage with just 1:40 left.


The Clippers made things interesting when Hagerty scored on a spinner, then Hagerty got a contested jumper to drop with 47 seconds left, making it 51-46, but Gelhar made the second of two free throws, then two foul shots from sophomore Mia Levesque with 23.5 seconds remaining slammed the door and the Falcons were able to celebrate a 54-46 victory.

“We’re just competing,” Pillsbury said. “We played well as a team and shared the ball well. We hit some shots.”

“We handled pressure in the fourth quarter,” Gelhar said. “We’ve struggled with that as a young team.”

“We did a good job valuing the ball in the fourth quarter,” Farrington added. “We took good shots and showed mental toughness. Both teams were in foul trouble, but my kids responded well to the adversity that we faced.”

Pillsbury excelled with 23 points. She also had three rebounds, two steals and two assists and impressed teammates and coaches alike with her clutch play.

“We want to get Angel shots because she’s amazing,” Gelhar said. “Having Angel hit some shots gave us confidence and got the flow going our way. A lot of us got minutes last year as freshmen. We’ve matured a lot and with a strong leader like Angel, she’s helped us with pressure situations.”


“Angel sets the example,” Farrington said. “She’s tough, she’s gritty, she’s stuck with the program. She’s reaping what she’s sewn right now.”

Gelhar had a solid game, scoring 13 points and adding a pair of assists.

“Sydney can be a big-time threat on any given night,” Farrington said.

Maddie Cormier added seven points and eight rebounds, Groves had seven points, a game-high dozen rebounds and two steals, Abbie Cormier finished with two points and three steals and Levesque also had two points.

Freeport turned the ball over 21 times, but did so just once in the fourth period, and made 15-of-29 free throws.

For Yarmouth, Hagerty led the way with 13 points, four assists and four rebounds. Keaney also finished in double figures with 11 points (to go with three rebounds and a pair of assists) before fouling out. Panozzo had nine points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks before also fouling out. MacDonald tallied seven points (and had three rebounds, two assists and two steals), King had four points (eight rebounds and three assists) and Cameron added two points.


The Clippers had a 35-30 advantage on the glass, but made just 6-of-16 foul shots and turned the ball over 22 times.

“We’re running into a stretch right now where we have younger players who are missing assignments,” lamented Yarmouth’s first-year coach Tom Panozzo. “We just don’t have that senior leadership to pull games like this out. These are the situations that will hopefully help us improve later. We were doing alright earlier in the week, but that hour-long bus ride to Lake Region (Friday) threw us off and having to double up like this, I’m sure that hurt us in the fourth quarter.”

See you soon

The teams meet again Jan. 24 in Yarmouth.

The Clippers first have the daunting task of going to Brunswick Tuesday, then they visit Spruce Mountain Friday.

“It won’t be easy next week,” Tom Panozzo said. “We have some time to practice. We have been seeing improvement with the younger players, but when the other team goes on a run, it sets us back and we have to keep our focus.”


Freeport goes to Cape Elizabeth Monday and welcomes York Friday.

“I’d love to go to the tournament,” said Gelhar. “We just have to continue to have defensive intensity and continue to share the ball.”

“I think we just need to continue to play well together,” said Pillsbury. “They more games we play, the more experience we’ll get.”

“I’m proud of the girls,” Farrington added. “I have high expectations, but their resilience is great and it’s a great group of kids.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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