PORTLAND—So much for Freeport’s girls’ basketball team being a year away.

The Falcons have arrived ahead of schedule.

And the rest of Class A South better take notice.

Monday afternoon at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building, sixth-ranked Freeport was given little to no chance to knock off No. 3 Mt. Ararat, a team which beat the Falcons by 22 points in the regular season, but Freeport is so young it doesn’t know what it’s not supposed to do and what resulted was the biggest surprise of the Portland tournament to date.

The Eagles appeared poised to run away and hide when they took a 16-5 lead on a 3-pointer from sophomore Kennedy Lampert, but late in the first quarter, sophomore Izzy Orlando came off the bench and made a couple free throws to settle her teammates down.

In fact, Orlando proved to be a huge spark and once senior standout Angel Pillsbury found her mark, the comeback was underway in earnest and two Orlando free throws momentarily put the Falcons ahead before Mt. Ararat closed the half on a 7-2 run to lead, 27-23, at the break.


When sophomores Cali Pomerleau and Avery Beal drained consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter, the Eagles led by nine, but Freeport again responded, closing the frame on a  15-4 run, capped by a 3-ball from Pillsbury in transition just before the horn, to take a shocking 41-39 lead to the fourth period.

There, the teams went back-and-forth, as Mt. Ararat went up, 50-46, on a long Pomerleau 3 with 3:43 to play, but the Falcons scored the next 10 points to turn the game on its ear.

After sophomore Maddie Cormier made a layup, Pillsbury tied the score with two free throws.

Then, with 1:02 left, Cormier’s jumper rattled in and improbably, Freeport had the lead.

Freshman Emily Groves and Pillsbury then hit two free throws apiece before sophomores Mia Levesque and Sydney Gelhar added one each to help close out an inspirational 58-53 victory.

Pillsbury had a game-high 26 points, Orlando added 12 and the Falcons improved to 11-8, ended Mt. Ararat’s season at 14-5 and in the process, advanced to take on No. 2 Gray-New Gloucester (16-3) in the semifinals Wednesday at 1 p.m., at the Expo.


“My closing speech to the girls yesterday after practice was that nobody outside our walls gave us an opportunity, but everyone inside our walls trusted each other and all the kids believed,” set Freeport coach Seth Farrington. “It’s probably my top victory ever. I think I have the top job in America.”

Just the beginning

Freeport began the season with just one player, Pillsbury, who had seen much varsity time and the Falcons didn’t inspire much preseason attention, but a young group came of age much quicker than expected, as Pillsbury emerged as a star. It all added up to a 10-8 campaign (see sidebar for links to previous stories). The Falcons won six of their final seven games to earn the No. 6 seed.

Mt. Ararat went 14-4, losing twice to top seed Brunswick, once to Class A North favorite Gardiner and once to Falmouth, and ended up third in the region.

The Eagles won the regular season meeting, 53-31, in Freeport.

The teams had no playoff history.


Monday, the Falcons came of age faster than anyone expected and reminded everyone just how special an upset can be.

Freeport freshman Emily Groves drives to the basket past Mt. Ararat sophomore Cali Pomerleau early in the Falcons’ victory Monday. Hoffer photos.

Mt. Ararat struck first, as Beal set up freshman Kayleigh Wagg for a layup, but Groves answered with a free throw, then Pillsbury scored her first points on a runner for Freeport’s first lead.

The Eagles went back on top on a Beal 3, then Pomerleau set up Lampert for a layup and freshman Julianna Allen scored on an up-and-under layup to make it 9-3, forcing Farrington to call timeout.

The Falcons answered on a Groves putback, but the next seven points went to Mt. Ararat, which got a putback from Allen, a baseline jumper from Pomerleau, then a Lampert 3 to go ahead, 16-5, and threaten to break it open early.

But with 57 seconds to go, Orlando, who missed much of the season with injury, made two free throws to cut the deficit to nine going to the second quarter.

Where Freeport settled in and responded.


Pillsbury got things started with a driving layup, then, after Orlando kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, she set up Pillsbury for a 3.

“It’s not easy shooting here,” Pillsbury said. “The backdrop is definitely different. It takes awhile to get used to it.”

Gelhar and Orlando then added single free throws to make it a two-point game.

With 4:30 left in the first half, a Pomerleau free throw snapped the Eagles’ 4 minute, 41 second scoring drought, but Groves made a foul shot, Orlando tied it with a contested bank shot and with 2:43 on the clock, two Orlando free throws gave the Falcons a 19-17 lead.

“Izzy hit some free throws and was our spark off the bench, so we kept her in there,” Farrington said. “I thought we weathered their run well. At the end of the first quarter, we knew we had to focus on one possession at a time and get stops and scores and we chipped away at it.”

Pomerleau countered with a 3, but Gelhar stopped-and-popped in the lane and hit the shot to put Freeport up one.


Two Pomerleau free throws put Mt. Ararat ahead, but Orlando tied the score with a free throw.

Junior Abbie Doble made two free throws to give the Eagles the lead again and after Levesque countered with a foul shot, Allen made one for Mt. Ararat and Doble converted a layup for a 27-23 advantage at the break.

In the first 16 minutes, Orlando had nine points and Pillsbury seven for the Falcons, while the Eagles were paced by Pomerleau, with eight points.

Mt. Ararat then tried again to pull away when the second half commenced, but again, Freeport stood tall.

Allen started the third quarter with a putback and after Pillsbury sank a 3 in the corner (off a pass from Groves), Pomerleau drained a 3 in the corner before Beal’s 3 made it 35-26 with 5:52 to go in the frame.

But Freeport dug deep and rallied.


Pillsbury started the comeback with a bank shot, then she converted an old-fashioned three-point play, stealing the ball, making a layup while being fouled and adding the and-one free throw.

After Levesque added a point at the line, Groves blocked a shot at the defensive end and that set the stage for Gelhar firing a pass to Pillsbury for a layup to cut the deficit to 35-34.

Pomerleau momentarily stemmed the tide with a runner, but Pillsbury made two foul shots.

After Allen drove for a layup with 56 seconds to go, Gelhar made a short jumper in the lane 18 seconds later and as time expired, Levesque, in transition, passed to Pillsbury, who had set up behind the stripe, and Pillsbury’s 3-point shot found the net to put Freeport up, 41-39, heading to the final stanza.

Where the Falcons put the finishing touches on one of the most memorable victories in program history.

Twenty-one seconds into the fourth quarter, Orlando took a pass from Gelhar and made a 3, but the Eagles refused to buckle, getting a long 3 from Pomerleau, a free throw from Wagg and with 5:59 left, a Doble layup to retake the lead, 45-44.


With 4:42 to go, Cormier scored her first points of the game, driving for a layup and the lead, but 18 seconds later, two Pomerleau foul shots put Mt. Ararat back in front.

Then, with 3:43 left, Pomerleau drained a long 3 to make it a two-possession game.

But Freeport would close strong.

Cormier drove for a layup with 2:37 on the clock and 45 seconds later, Pillsbury was fouled and calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one to tie the score.

After Cormier blocked Allen’s shot, Cormier played the hero at the other end, as Pillsbury missed a shot but got her own rebound before passing to Cormier, whose shot in the lane hit the rim and dropped to give the Falcons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, 52-50.

After Pomerleau missed, Groves got the rebound and she was fouled with 46 seconds to go.


Groves the hit the biggest free throws of her young life, draining both ends of a one-and-one for a little breathing room.

After sophomore Elena Willis missed a 3 for the Eagles, Pillsbury got the rebound and with 29.7 seconds showing, Pillsbury made two more free throws to make it 56-50.

“I just knew I had to make them,” Pillsbury said. “I was confident.”

Pomerleau got a point back for Mt. Ararat, but Levesque hit one of her own to restore a six-point lead.

A bank shot from Pomerleau with 5 seconds to proved to be the Eagles’ final points and with 2.8 seconds to go, Gelhar made one more free throw and at 2:37 p.m., the horn sounded and Freeport rushed the court and celebrated a 58-53 victory.

Freeport celebrates its upset victory Monday.

“We knew we were the underdog and we knew we were underrated and we wanted to show everyone we’re a lot more than everyone thinks we are,” Orlando said. “I think we just wanted it more.”


“It feels great,” Pillsbury said. “This is something we’ve wanted. We’ve worked hard the past couple weeks and it feels so good to win. We competed harder for each other.”

“Last year, we would have had a hard time closing a game like this out, but we defended and rebounded and made free throws,” Farrington added. “I think that’s the best basketball we can play. We played great team basketball. If we share the ball, it dictates the shot. I think we do that collectively really well.

“We had a rough beginning of the year, Izzy got hurt and things didn’t go our way, but we came together. Give the kids credit. They’re coachable. Playing for me isn’t easy some days, but you see the love after the game and it’s great to see. We were 3-6, but we stuck with the message of togetherness. We turned the season around.”

Pillsbury, who has been exceptional all season, as a player and leader, led all scorers with 26 points and had a pair of steals as well.

“Angel reaps what she sews,” Farrington said. “She’s a tough kid and I’m just so proud of her. She’s been one of the best leaders this program’s ever had. My best decision of the year was making Angel a captain. She sets the example.”

Orlando made her mark with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.


“My biggest thing to forget any mistakes I’ve made,” Orlando said. “I just wanted to give all my effort and play some good minutes.”

“Izzy brings a lot of energy,” Pillsbury said. “She’s good at getting rebounds.”

Cormier and Groves (four steals, three rebounds, two blocked shots) added six points apiece, while Gelhar (four rebounds, three assists) had five and Levesque (four rebounds) finished with three.

The Falcons made 22-of-36 free throws and overcame 19 turnovers.

Mt. Ararat was led by Pomerleau, who was terrific, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out three assists and adding three steals for good measure.

Allen had nine points (and a game-high 10 rebounds), Beal and Doble added six apiece, Lampert had five and Wagg three.


The Eagles had a 35-27 rebound advantage, but turned the ball over 21 times and made just 9-of-18 free throws.

Not finished

Freeport lost twice to Gray-New Gloucester this winter, 39-27 on the road in the season opener back on Dec. 9 and 51-35 at home Jan. 31.

The Patriots have won all four prior playoff encounters, with a 42-31 victory in the 2019 Class B South Final the most recent.

The Falcons will go into the semifinals as yes, the underdog, but they’ll be confident and poised and will know that anything is possible.

“Since we’re a young team, we’re not expected to do much,” Orlando said. “Going to the semifinals is a lot for us. We’re grateful every single moment we have out there. I’m so excited to play here again and show everyone what we have.”

“I knew we could get here,” Pillsbury said. “It feels good to get to the semifinals. We have to continue to work hard and play together like we did today. If we do, we have a shot.”

“This is so much fun,” Farrington added. “Tonight, we’ll watch a bunch of film. We’ll have just one prep day, not 11. We’ll come out ready to play. We’ll be organized and we’ll compete hard and the chips will fall where they fall.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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