PORTLAND—Midnight finally arrived for the Cinderella Freeport girls’ basketball team.

But the Falcons will back at the ball in no time.

Wednesday afternoon in a Class A South semifinal at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building, Freeport, ranked sixth and coming off an inspirational upset win the previous round, ran into a second-seeded Gray-New Gloucester squad which was smothering defensively and red-hot from the 3-point stripe.

The Falcons enjoyed an early 5-2 lead, but the Patriots scored 18 of the next 20 points to seize control. Gray-New Gloucester lead, 10-7, after one quarter and 27-18 at halftime, thanks in large part to five made 3-pointers.

Freeport would draw within seven on a layup from freshman Emily Groves in the third period and had a couple chances to get even closer, but couldn’t do so and the Patriots scored four late points to make it 36-25 heading for the final stanza.

There, a Groves basket cut the deficit to seven one final time, but the next seven points went to Gray-New Gloucester and it closed out a 45-36 victory.


The Patriots sank seven 3-pointers, held Falcons senior standout Angel Pillsbury in check, improved to 16-4, set up a regional final date versus powerhouse top-seed Brunswick (18-2) in the Class A South Final Friday at 7 p.m., at the Expo and in the process, ended Freeport’s memorable campaign at 11-9.

“These kids allow you to coach them and they play hard,” said Falcons coach Seth Farrington. “You could see the emotion on their face after we lost. They really thought we were going to win.”

Building block

Freeport was just 3-6 midway through the season, but the Falcons soared after that, going 7-2 in the second half of the regular season before shocking No. 6 Mt. Ararat Monday (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

While Freeport came out of nowhere, Gray-New Gloucester is a perennial contender and has impressed from start to finish, going 15-3 in the regular season before nearly blanking No. 7 Greely in the first half of its quarterfinal en route to a 39-25 victory.

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 had won all four prior playoff encounters, with a 42-31 victory in the 2019 Class B South Final the most recent (see sidebar for previous results).

Wednesday, Gray-New Gloucester did it again, but the Falcons, who trailed nearly the whole way, made the Patriots work for 32 minutes to advance.

Gray-New Gloucester scored first on a layup from sophomore Isabelle Morelli 48 seconds in, but sophomore Maddie Cormier got Freeport on the board with a bank shot, sophomore Mia Levesque sank a free throw, then sophomore Izzy Orlando, the sparkplug in the win over Mt. Ararat, got a contested leaner to bounce in for a 5-2 lead.

That’s as good as it would get for the Falcons, however, as the Patriots went on an 8-0 run to go on top to stay.

Gray-New Gloucester started to heat up from the outside, as junior Ali Portas and junior Ellie Steele hit back-to-back 3s. Morelli then drove for a layup to make it 10-5.

After Orlando drove and finished to pull Freeport within three after one quarter, the Patriots started the second with a flourish, as freshman Ella Kenney sank a 3, then sophomore Laney Farrar got in on the fun with another 3-ball to stretch the lead to 16-7, forcing Farrington to call timeout.


And in the break, Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen delivered a pointed message to his squad.

“We were up 16-7 and we had a timeout and I said, ‘this is the same score as at the end of the first quarter of the Mt. Ararat-Freeport game the other day. The question is, will we make bad decisions?'”

Out of the break, Morelli answered by making a layup to complete a 16-2 run.

A breakway layup by Pillsbury (her first points) ended the surge, but Farrar countered with a 3-ball from the corner, which rattled in for a 21-9 advantage.

Pillsbury then hit two free throws and after senior Caitlin Taylor made a pair for the Patriots, Cormier made a foul shot, then banked home a leaner to cut the deficit to 23-14.

Kenney countered with a driving layup and after Groves scored her first point, at the line, Orlando sank a 3, but with just 2 seconds remaining, senior Amber Fortin drove for a layup and Gray-New Gloucester took a 27-18 advantage to the half.


Farrar and Morelli each had six points and the Patriots drained five 3-pointers to get the lead.

Portas then opened the second half with another 3.

After Groves made a free throw, Cormier hit a jumper to cut the deficit to nine and after Taylor made a layup, Groves knocked down a jump shot and with 5:18 to go in the third quarter, Groves drove and made a layup to cut the deficit to 32-25.

But Gray-New Gloucester closed the frame strong, as Kenney scored on a putback, then Morelli hit a jumper to send the Patriots to the final stanza up by 11 points, 36-25.

Freeport tried to rally again when the fourth period started, as Cormier blocked a shot at the defensive end, then took the ball coast-to-coast and made a layup before Groves’ bank made it a seven-point game for the final time.

Again, Gray-New Gloucester was unfazed, as Morelli made a short jumper.


“Izzy Morelli, she made the big 3 the other day, against Greely, and she made one today in the lane,” Andreasen said. “They got close, then she knocked it down.”

Portas sank another 3 and Taylor buried a shot from just inside the stripe for a commanding 43-29 advantage.

After Orlando spun and made a layup, sophomore Sydney Gelhar got a jumper to drop, but Kenney responded with a runner for the Patriots’ final points

With 1:46 left, Cormier scored on a putback and 28 seconds later she hit a free throw, but Gray-New Gloucester was able to run out the clock and celebrate its 45-36 victory.

“We looked at the lessons of the other day,” Andreasen said. “Mt. Ararat had them on the rocks twice. We wanted to make good decisions and make them beat us with players not named Pillsbury and we did that.”

The Patriots were led by Morelli, who had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals, while Kenney and Portas each had nine points and four rebounds. Farrar and Taylor contributed six points apiece, while Fortin finished with two points and five assists. Steele had three points and played stellar defense on Pillsbury.


“(Pillsbury) averaged seven points against us in the first two games and today she only had four, so we played good defense,” Andreasen said. “We knew she could be the kid who beat us. We game-planned well.”

Gray-New Gloucester made seven 3-pointers to Freeport’s one and overcame 14 turnovers and 2-of-8 foul shooting.

“We’re pretty disciplined,” Andreasen said. “It might not be fun to watch, but it’s effective. We’re not a team of stars. We’re young. Our seniors are great leaders. The kids only get frantic if the coach gets frantic or if the bench gets frantic. You have to be even keel and keep ebbs and flows at a minimum.”

Gray-New Gloucester is just one of two teams to enjoy success this winter against Brunswick, holding off the visiting Dragons, 48-47, back on Jan. 10.

“We really didn’t expect this coming in the season,” Andreasen said. “We went to the quarterfinals last year and we were hoping to go a step further and now it’s two steps further. We’re at a point now where I think we’re playing with house money.”

You just wait


Freeport’s effort was paced by Cormier, who played with great energy throughout and had 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

Orlando had nine points and Groves just missed a double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds.

Pillsbury was held to four points, but her season-long effort was sensational.

There is no denying that Pillsbury’s graduation will leave a big void in the program, as she emerged as a special player and leader of a team that needed her guidance every bit as much as her sharpshooting.

“We’re only here because of Angel and her senior leadership,” Farrington said. “It’ll be tough to replace. She’s our top scorer and our best leader. She’ll be in same category as from a leadership perspective as (former standouts) Caroline Smith. Rachel Wall, those types of kids. I’m super proud of her.”

Gelhar had two points and Levesque added one.


The Falcons had a 31-26 rebound advantage, made 7-of-14 free throws and committed 13 turnovers.

“We got down early and this time, we didn’t have enough offense to come back,” Farrington lamented. “We got good looks, but we couldn’t capitalize in those situations. Their size and athleticism give us trouble. Besides Brunswick, they have the most size across the board and it’s not just size, length, they rebound well and they’re really good defensively. Credit to them.”

Despite the disappointment in the aftermath of the loss, Freeport has a lot to be proud of.

“It’s been a great run, especially after starting 3-6,” Farrington said.

Next year’s Falcons won’t sneak up anyone, but they won’t need to.

“We’re young, but sometimes that can be a poison apple,” Farrington said. “These kids have to show growth. Hopefully we’ll get bigger, stronger and faster.

“I’m excited about next year. The well isn’t dry.”

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

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