PORTLAND—This was supposed to be the year that North Yarmouth Academy’s girls’ basketball team came back to the pack.

Not yet.

This was also supposed to be the year that Waynflete slowly climbed into contention.

But the Flyers have arrived a year ahead of schedule.

Tuesday afternoon, at Waynflete’s unique little bandbox gymnasium on Spring Street, the Flyers and Panthers engaged in a surprising midseason battle of unbeatens.

A battle that saw Waynflete announce once and for all that it’s back, but ultimately, it was NYA doing what it seemingly always does in the regular season.



The Flyers let the Panthers know they weren’t about to roll over when they took an early 10-4 lead, but the Panthers scored the final seven points of the first quarter.

Waynflete then went up by five, 18-13, in the second period, before NYA closed the first half on a 10-2 run to lead, 23-20, at the break.

The Flyers drew even at 26-26 in the third quarter, but consecutive 3-pointers from senior Graca Bila and junior Athena Gee put the Panthers ahead to stay and they held a 33-26 advantage heading for the final stanza.

There, junior Ella Giguere made two free throws with 4:45 to go to make it 45-31 NYA, but the Panthers wouldn’t score again and Waynflete closed the game with a furious rally.

After senior standout Lucy Hart hit a 3 to make things interesting, senior Maeve Mechtenberg and junior Lauren McNutt-Girouard both scored in the final minute to cut the deficit to a mere three points.


The Flyers even had a chance to tie it at the horn, but a desperation shot from McNutt-Girouard was off target and NYA was able to hold on for a 45-42 victory.

The Panthers got 15 points from Bila and 11 from Giguere as they improved to 9-0 for the second year in a row and in the process, handed Waynflete its first setback in seven outings.

“Waynflete’s legit,” said NYA coach Tom Robinson. “Give them a lot of credit. They can do some damage. They’re athletic, they have good guards. This was a good learning experience. We needed it for bigger games down the road.”

No introduction necessary

Neither squad needed any motivation for this one.

Players from both teams were involved in memorable playoff games in lacrosse back in June (won by NYA) and soccer in November (won by Waynflete). The fact that both squads were undefeated as well added a compelling layer to the matchup.


The Panthers came agonizingly close to playing in the Class C state final each of the past two seasons. They lost in overtime to eventual champion Old Orchard Beach in last year’s regional final and despite graduating Sarah English and Angel Huntsman, both now playing in college, haven’t missed a beat this winter.

NYA started by beating host St. Dom’s (56-31), then it defeated visiting Winthrop (45-42), before handling host Carrabec (76-31), host Monmouth Academy (65-27), visiting Dirigo (65-14) and visiting Poland (58-35), holding off host Sacopee Valley (39-33), then downing host Kents Hill (82-25) .

Waynflete, meanwhile, has improved mightily from a year ago, when it went 6-12 and didn’t even qualify for the tournament.

The Flyers started with wins over host Poland (33-24), visiting Traip Academy (21-11) and Sacopee Valley (40-22).  Waynflete then won at Boothbay, 65-44, downed visiting Cape Elizabeth (39-25) and host Old Orchard Beach (53-19).

Last season, NYA rolled in both meetings, winning at home (60-28) and in Portland (59-21).

From Feb. 4, 2006 through Feb. 8, 2018, Waynflete won 26 straight games in the series, but the Panthers came into play Tuesday having won eight straight.


NYA went out and made it nine in a row.

But not without a mighty scare.

Waynflete senior Lucy Hart drives on NYA senior Graca Bila during the Panthers’ 45-42 victory Tuesday. Hoffer photos.

NYA couldn’t have asked for a better start, as sophomore Ava Wilkinson won the opening tip to Giguere, who passed ahead to Bila for a layup just four seconds in.

The Flyers’ first points came on a putback by senior Jojo Moriba and after Giguere set up Wilkinson for a layup, Waynflete, or more specifically McNutt-Girouard, ran off eight straight points.

A runner from McNutt-Girouard tied the score, then she buried two 3-pointers in a 24-second span to put the Flyers in front, 10-4.

But Waynflete wouldn’t score the final 5 minutes, 44 seconds of the quarter and the Panthers settled in and retook the lead.


After Wilkinson kept play alive with an offensive rebound, she set up Giguere for a 3. Giguere then returned the favor by passing to Wilkinson for a layup and with 1:37 left in the frame, Giguere got a jumper to rattle home to send NYA to the second period on top, 11-10.

Twenty-two seconds into the new quarter, a bank shot 3-pointer from Mechtenberg ended a 6:06 drought and the Panthers’ 7-0 run and gave the Flyers the lead.

The next time down the floor, Mechtenberg struck again from 3-point land, this time taking a pass from senior Sara Levenson and getting her long range shot to hit the rim and the backboard before dropping.

Giguere set up Wilkinson for a layup to answer, but after a steal by Hart, junior Lydia Birknes got the ball and passed it back to Hart, who made a layup for an 18-13 advantage with 6:06 to go before halftime.

Again, NYA responded, closing the half on a run.

First, a 3-pointer from Gee snapped a 5:39 drought. After Bila made a free throw, Giguere drove and made a layup with her left hand. Freshman Alicia Fontana then scored on a putback and with 2:11 remaining, a runner in the lane from junior Emily Robbins made it 23-18 Panthers.


The Flyers answered 40 seconds later, on a layup after a steal from Hart, but NYA took a three-point lead to the break.

In the first half, Bila had seven points and Wilkinson six for the Panthers, while Waynflete was paced by eight points from McNutt-Girouard.

The Flyers would start the second half strong, but NYA finished the third period with seven straight points to finally take the lead for good.

NYA sophomore Ava Wilkinson defends Waynflete junior Lauren McNutt-Girouard.

After Bila opened the half with a 3, McNutt-Girouard went on another run, making a layup off a feed from Mechtenberg, converting another layup off an inbounds pass from Hart, then with 3:50 on the clock, tying the score at 26-26 on yet another layup, this one from Hart after a steal.

But with 1:50 to go, Robbins fed Bila for a 3 that gave the Panthers the lead for good.

Gee then got a pass from Robbins and made another 3-pointer 38 seconds later and with 13 seconds left in the quarter, Gee added a free throw to send NYA to the fourth period up by seven, 33-26.


There, just eight seconds, Robbins found Wilkinson for a layup and after Hart set up McNutt-Girouard for a layup to snap the Panthers’ 9-0 run, Gee found Bila for a 3, Bila stole the ball and set up Giguere for a layup, then with 5:45 remaining in the game, Bila took a pass from Giguere and made another 3 to make the score 43-28 and seemingly end it.

“My mentality is always to shoot if I’m open,” Bila said. “Coach will yell at me if I don’t and I’ve gotten more confident.”

But Waynflete would save its best for last and nearly pull off an impossible rally.

With 5:10 to play, McNutt-Girouard hit a 3.

Twenty-five seconds later, Giguere made two free throws, but that would be it for NYA’s scoring.

McNutt-Girouard and Mechtenberg then hit consecutive layups to cut the deficit to 10.


With 1:32 to go, the Flyers drew within seven, when Hart buried a 3.

Waynflete got the ball back and with 58 seconds on the clock, Hart found Mechtenberg for a bank shot to make the score 45-40.

Hart then stole the ball and with 20 seconds to go, McNutt-Girouard banked in a shot with her left hand and improbably, it was a one-possession contest.

After Bila threw a long pass ahead to Giguere for what appeared to be a game sealing layup, Mechtenberg blocked the shot to keep hope alive.

The rebound went out of bounds to the Panthers and after Hart fouled out with 8 seconds to go, with just 5 seconds left, the visitors turned the ball over and the Flyers would have one last chance to extend the game.

The ball was inbounded to McNutt-Girouard, who raced into the front court and just before the clock hit zero, she threw up a prayer from well beyond the 3-point arc.


The shot was clearly long, but when it hit the backboard, for a split second, those on hand thought it might drop through the net, but instead, it ricocheted long and the horn sounded, giving NYA a hard-fought 45-42 victory.

“It was pretty nervewracking, but I knew as a captain, I had to stay calm and keep the team calm and that’s the only way we could win,” Bila said. “It means a little more after soccer. It was definitely on our minds.”

“All these girls played JV last year and this is different, so it’s a testament to the girls for working hard,” Robinson said.

Bila paced the Panthers with 15 points. She also had eight rebounds, two blocked shots and eight steals.

“I take a lot of pride in defense,” said Bila. “Defense is where offense comes from.”

Giguere had 11 points, five assists, five rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Wilkinson finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks, while Gee had seven points and Fontana and Robbins (seven rebounds, three assists, two steals) two points apiece.


“It’s a totally different team this year,” Robinson said. “Ella has waited a couple years to play. Athena can shoot. Emily does so much for us. We haven’t had a 6-2 player like Ava in awhile.”

The Panthers had a 40-36 advantage in the glass and overcame 4-of-11 foul shooting and 19 turnovers.

Waynflete got a game-high 23 points from McNutt-Girouard, who also had three rebounds and two steals.

“Lauren got a shot off at the end,” said Flyers coach Andrew Leach. “We’ve worked on some time-and-score situations in practice, but you really can’t mimic it until you get out here. We got what we wanted, a great player had a chance to get a shot to go. She’s only going to get better.”

Mechtenberg also finished in double figures with 10 points, to go with five rebounds. Hart was her usual terrific self, scoring seven points and adding eight assists and eight steals, while Moriba had two points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Sophomore Ayla Stutzman didn’t score, but had six rebounds and five assists.

Waynflete didn’t attempt a free throw and turned the ball over 21 times.


“This is the best we’ve played and it was against our toughest opponent,” said Leach. “This is what gets you ready for the playoffs. (NYA’s) been to Augusta. They’ll make a deep run in the playoffs. I really like what we did out there. For us to respond like we did and have moments where the game could have been ours, I can see that we’re disappointed, but this will help us later on.”

Growth potential

The teams meet again Jan. 23 in Yarmouth, but both have work to do first.

Waynflete (now ranked third in the Class D South Heal Points standings) hopes to bounce back Thursday, but it won’t be easy with Class B South contender Lake Region paying a visit. The Flyers go to Kents Hill Saturday, then travel to St. Dom’s Monday.

“Our potential for growth is exponential,” Leach said. “We just have to make sure we keep mixing up our defense, get a little more tightened up on offense and meet the moment.”

NYA (which is first in Class C South) is back in action Thursday at home versus Traip Academy.

“We just have to continue to play the way we play,” said Bila. “We’ve just found our own way of playing as a team. We knew we couldn’t play the same way we did last year. A lot of people have stepped up and we support each other always.”

“The league’s different every year,” Robinson said. “We’re not a deep team. We just have to hang in there.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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