YARMOUTH—North Yarmouth Academy’s girls’ basketball team has yet to find a challenge this winter, but the Panthers continue to put on a show regardless.

Tuesday evening at Curtis Gymnasium, NYA hosted a Winthrop team it could see in the tournament next month and served notice that whoever is standing in their way that the Panthers are going to be tough to deny as they look to finish what last year’s team started.

NYA trailed for all of 23 seconds and rolled to a 19-9 lead after one quarter, as senior standout Angel Huntsman scored eight points, dished out four assists and added three steals.

By halftime, the Panthers were firmly in control, 37-14, and they never relented in the second half either as a balanced attack eventually produced a decisive 79-31 victory.

Huntsman finished with a double-double of 17 points and 16 assists, senior Sarah English also had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds and junior Graca Bila led all scorers with 18 points as NYA improved to 11-0 on the year and in the process, dropped the Ramblers to 8-4.

“We were so excited today,” said the Bates College-bound Huntsman. “We love to hear when teams want to beat us and as an undefeated team, teams want to beat us, but every single time teams team come in with intensity, we turn them away.”


The beat goes on

NYA excelled a year ago, winning 17 games and reaching the regional final, but the season ended with a painful loss to eventual champion Hall-Dale, which went on to capture the Gold Ball.

The Panthers entered the 2022-23 season with high expectations and have not disappointed, winning their first 10 games by an average of nearly 48 points. NYA opened with a 76-16 victory at St. Dom’s, then defeated visiting Poland (76-27), Traip Academy (65-40), Monmouth Academy (74-19), Waynflete (60-28) and Seacoast Christian (77-26), host Richmond (82-43), Seacoast Christian (94-27) and Waynflete (59-21) and visiting St. Dom’s, 72-9, in a game in which the Panthers led, 43-0, at the half.

Winthrop won its first five contests and seven of its first eight (losing only to Carrabec), then was defeated by Spruce Mountain and Kents Hill before bouncing back Friday to edge visiting Traip Academy (48-45).

The teams had met just once previously, a 55-34 NYA victory in the 2019 Class C South semifinal round.

Tuesday, the Panthers continued to do what they do best, force turnovers, get up the floor and rely on the nonpareil Huntsman to find her teammates for easy looks.


North Yarmouth Academy senior Angel Huntsman defends Winthrop sophomore Ella Rice early in the Panthers’ 79-31 victory Tuesday. Hoffer photo.

The Ramblers actually scored first, as sophomore Madeline Wagner set up classmate Morgan Fichthorn for a fastbreak layup 54 seconds into the game, but that would be their highwater mark.

With 6:43 left in the first quarter, off a steal, Huntsman fed senior Charlotte Harper-Cunningham for a layup and 25 seconds later, in transition, English set up Bila for a layup to put NYA on top for good.

Huntsman’s unrivaled ability to find her teammates then helped the Panthers quickly extend their lead, as she fed Bila for a layup with a no-look pass, found English for a layup, then hit English in stride on the fastbreak for another layup, making it 10-2.

“Sometimes (my teammates) see (the no-look pass) and sometimes they don’t and if they don’t see it, the other team definitely doesn’t see it,” Huntsman said. “(My teammates) know to keep their hands up because the ball’s coming, even if I’m not looking. I use every single player on my team and that’s hard to guard. You can’t guard just one person.”

Winthrop ended the 10-0 run on a 3-point shot from senior Bella Littler, but Huntsman heated up with the shot, first draining a 3-pointer, then hitting a jumper and after Wagner and Harper-Cunningham traded free throws and Ramblers junior Haley Williams banked home a runner, Huntsman sank another 3 just before the horn and NYA was on top, 19-9.

“We made sure to come out hard,” said Bila. “That’s very important to us.”


Winthrop got free throws from Wagner and Rice to start the second period, but Huntsman found Harper-Cunningham in transition for a 3-pointer, then Bila made a layup for a 24-11 advantage.

With 5:15 to go, sophomore Morgan Fichthorn scored the Ramblers’ final field goal of the half, a short jumper, then Huntsman set up Bila for a layup and senior Madilyn Onorato assisted on another Bila layup to make it 28-13.

After senior Rhyan Sawlivich made a free throw for Winthrop, the Panthers closed on a 9-0 surge, as Huntsman drove for a layup, senior Josie Harper-Cunningham made a 3, Huntsman hit a jumper, then Huntsman fed Onorato for a layup and a commanding 37-14 advantage.

Huntsman and Bila both scored in double digits in the first half and NYA didn’t slow down when the second half commenced.

Bila opened the scoring with a layup and after Fichthorn made a long 3 for the Ramblers, Onorato set up English for a layup, then Huntsman found Bila on the fastbreak for another layup.

“If I’m open, I can always count on (Angel) to find me,” Bila said. “It’s really amazing playing with her.”


English added a bank shot before Fichthorn got a jumper to bounce in and Rice banked home a shot to cut the deficit to 45-21.

Huntsman countered with a 3-ball and Onorato banked home a shot.

After Fichthorn made a layup, Huntsman found sophomore Ella Giguere for a layup.

Wagner hit a jumper and Fichthorn drained a 3 to make it 52-28, but the Ramblers would get no closer, as NYA closed the frame with a layup from Onorato (set up by Huntsman), a 3-point shot from Giguere and a Giguere layup, set up by Josie Harper-Cunningham.

Huntsman started the fourth quarter with a runner off the glass for her final points and after Wagner drove for a layup, Bila made consecutive layups, Charlotte Harper-Cunningham sank a pair of free throws and English hit two more for a 69-30 lead.

Fichthorn got a point back at the line, but sophomore Athena Gee made a 3-pointer for the Panthers, Josie Harper-Cunningham scored on a putback, Gee made a layup, then Josie Harper-Cunningham hit a 3 to account for the 79-31 final score.


“We work on transition in practice and it pays off in games like this,” said NYA coach Tom Robinson. “This was our best effort. We had kids diving on the floor. They were all rooting for each other. They were hungry.

“(Winthrop’s) scrappy. They like to play the way we like to play. We don’t see that a lot. We’re really deep and they got tired. We play 10 kids and they can all play.”

Bila was the game’s high scorer with 18 points. She also had seven rebounds and two steals.

“Graca is very athletic,” Robinson said. “She has a great first step. She really battles.”

Huntsman did it all, scoring 17 points, adding 16 assists (she would have eclipsed 20 were it not for several missed layups), eight rebounds and five steals while playing nearly the entire game.

“I went from Serena (Mower) to Angel, so it’s been five good years of point guards,” said Robinson. “If I knew then what I knew now, I would have had her playing (point guard) as a freshman. Angel’s tough. She plays good in big games. Her shot looked good tonight. When she makes her shot, she’s tough.”


English also had a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds), Charlotte Harper-Cunningham and Josie Harper-Cunningham each had eight points and five rebounds, Giguere finished with seven points, Onorato (10 rebounds, four assists) had six and Gee added five.

“We’re usually pretty balanced scoring,” said Robinson.

NYA had a 53-25 rebounding advantage, made 5-of-8 free throws and overcame 16 turnovers.

Winthrop was led by Fichthorn, who had 15 points, six rebounds and two steals. Wagner added seven points, five rebounds and two steals. Littler and Rice each had three, Williams finished with two and Sawlivich had one.

The Ramblers made just 6-of-14 free throws and turned the ball over 22 times.

Biggest test


While Winthrop looks to get back in the win column Friday at home versus Dirigo, NYA has perhaps its biggest challenge of the season when it goes to 10-2 Old Orchard Beach Friday. The Seagulls lost to Class B South power Wells Tuesday.

“We’re looking forward to a challenging game,” Bila said. “It will show us what we need to do to keep getting stronger. I want to put my all toward this team for the seniors. I know how hard everyone has been working.”

“No team has been able to stop us yet,” said Huntsman. “This is the year that we want to go all the way. This is it for a lot of us. We have the intensity up, no matter what team we play. Whether it’s Hall-Dale, whether it’s OOB. Every team we have to face with the same intensity.

“I think we have what it takes. We just need to work on fundamentals. Layups, shots, the right shots. Me and Coach emphasize taking the right shots. I’ll yell, ‘kick it out, kick it out’ if there are better shots to take.”

“We’ll get a battle Friday,” Robinson added. “(Elise) McNair is tough and they have other 3-point shooters. We’ll find out more about ourselves in that game.

“Kents Hill is tough. You can’t count out Hall-Dale, obviously, then there’s Old Orchard. Things get tight at the (Augusta) Civic Center on the bigger floor, but we have experience. If we can make foul shots and layups, we should be alright.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Comments are not available on this story.