FALMOUTH—If the Freeport and Falmouth girls’ basketball teams treated Monday’s contest like a playoff game, that’s because essentially, it was.

For the Navigators, the possibility existed if they won their final two games, they’d be a tournament team and for the Falcons, a team that has been decimated by injuries, they knew they had to win their finale to keep their season alive.

And it would be Freeport getting its wish.


The Falcons, playing without juniors Mia Levesque and Izzy Orlando and sophomore Emily Groves, all sidelined for the rest of the season, got off to a strong start, taking a 15-12 lead after one quarter, thanks to seven points from junior Maddie Cormier and six from classmate Sydney Gelhar.

But Falmouth held Freeport to just two second period points and took a 24-17 halftime advantage, closing the half on a 12-0 run.


Backed up against the wall, the Falcons came out strong and retook the lead, 27-26, when Gelhar drove for a layup late in the third quarter.

The Navigators retook the lead early in the final stanza, on a basket from senior Peaches Stucker, but with 5:14 remaining, freshman Abby Giroux hit Freeport’s biggest shot of the season, a 3-pointer, for the game’s ninth and final lead change.

Down the stretch, Gelhar added a clutch basket and three free throws to help close it out and the Falcons eked out a 36-34 victory.

Cormier led the way with 15 points, Gelhar added 13 and Freeport ended the regular season 8-10, locked up a trip to the playoffs and in the process, dropped Falmouth to 4-13, eliminating it from postseason consideration.

“I don’t know how we did it,” said Falcons coach Seth Farrington. “We had to win this game to get to the Expo, bottom line. We win, we were in. Lose, we were out. I told the girls that I’ve been fortunate to coach some really good players and teams (at Freeport). I’ve been spoiled here, but I’m more proud of what this team accomplished than any other team.”

Digging deep


The Falcons and Navigators each reached the Class A South semifinals a year ago, but nothing has come easily this winter.

Freeport started with a promising 49-43 victory at Deering, then defeated visiting Morse (73-49) before losing at home to Greely (47-40). After edging host Biddeford (45-41), the Falcons lost at Wells (51-31), then edged visiting Yarmouth (36-34) and closed the 2023 portion of the schedule with a 56-20 win at Cape Elizabeth. After losing at home to Fryeburg Academy (35-32), Freeport held off visiting Westbrook in double-overtime (44-42), but five straight losses ensued: 43-40 to visiting Mt. Ararat, 50-33 at York, 50-47 to visiting Marshwood, 58-48 to visiting Lake Region and 59-39 at Yarmouth. After downing visiting Kennebunk (50-44), the Falcons lost at home to Brunswick (59-32) and Friday fell at Gray-New Gloucester (53-27)

Falmouth, meanwhile, started with losses at Gray-New Gloucester (53-38) and Westbrook (44-31) and at home to Deering (41-36) before getting in the win column with a 54-43 home victory over Class AA South contender South Portland. The Navigators then fell at Gorham (55-29), against Yarmouth in a holiday game at the Portland Exposition Building (49-38) and at home to Greely (47-37) and Gray-New Gloucester (52-37). After outlasting host Deering in overtime (42-41), Falmouth lost at home to Brunswick (58-23), at Marshwood (58-43), at home to Windham (38-30) and at home to Mt. Ararat (52-39). Last week, the Navigators sandwiched wins at Kennebunk (38-34) and Fryeburg Academy (51-46) around a 60-37 setback at Brunswick.

The teams had last met in a countable game Jan. 31, 2015, a 49-29 home victory for Falmouth.

Monday, both teams were aware of the stakes and played at a fever pitch, but ultimately, Freeport wouldn’t be denied.

Falmouth senior Emily Abott goes up for a shot while Freeport sophomore Abby Cormier, left, and freshman Abby Giroux defend. The Falcons prevailed, 36-34. Hoffer photos.

Senior Emily Abbott opened the scoring for Falmouth with a free throw, then sophomore Jane McPheeters banked home a shot before Gelhar first made her presence felt with an old-fashioned three-point play (basket, foul, free throw) to tie it.


Giroux added two free throws, but McPheeters countered with a 3.

After Cormier’s first basket, a jumper, gave the Falcons the lead, senior Maddy Christman scored on a putback for the Navigators.

Cormier then scored five quick points, first hitting a jumper, then scoring on the drive while being fouled and adding the and-one free throw for a 12-8 advantage.

“Going inside was the game plan,” Cormier said. “I was told to drive as hard as I could to the rim.”

Back came Falmouth, as McPheeters hit a contested leaner and Abbott banked home a runner.

In the waning seconds, Gelhar made a free throw, then Gelhar scored on a layup to put Freeport up, 15-12, after eight minutes.


The first period featured five lead changes and two ties and Cormier and Gelhar’s 13 combined points helped negate seven from McPheeters.

When Cormier opened the second quarter with a bank shot, the Falcons had a five-point lead, but they wouldn’t score the final 6 minutes, 28 seconds of the half and the Navigators closed on a 12-0 run to seemingly seize control.

The run began with a free throw from Christman. After Abbott drained a 3, Christman scored on a putback for the lead, then McPheeters hit a jumper, senior Reese Farraher made a jumper, then senior Kate Barter did the same to make it 24-17 at the break.

McPheeters’ nine points and seven rebounds led the way, but Freeport was able to regroup in the locker room and would be a different team when the second half commenced.

Freeport junior Sydney Gelhar knocks down a jumper over Falmouth senior Reese Farraher.

Fifteen seconds into the third period, Cormier sank the second of two free throws to snap the Navigators’ 12-0 run and a 6:43 scoring drought.

Cormier and Christman then traded free throws, before Cormier converted another three-point play and a leaner from junior Lana DiRusso cut the deficit to 25-24 with 3:22 to go in the frame.


“The one-pass jump shot we had in the first half wasn’t our m.o.,” said Farrington. “Our spacing got messed up, but we fixed it.”

Christman momentarily stemmed the tide with a free throw, but with 1:10 on the clock, she was called for her third foul.

The Falcons took advantage, as Cormier made a free throw, then Gelhar drove for a layup with 13 seconds to go and a 27-26 lead to the take to the final stanza.

And there, Freeport did just enough to prevail.

Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Stucker put Falmouth in front for the final time with a short jumper that bounced in, but after Christman picked up her fourth foul, Giroux came up huge with 5:14 remaining, draining a 3 to give the Falcons the lead for good.

“I thought Abby Giroux did a great job on Abbott tonight and hit a big 3 for us to give us energy,” Farrington said.


After Cormier missed two free throws which could have extended the lead, the Navigators had ample opportunities to answer, but turned the ball over multiple times.

Then, with 2:43 to play, Gelhar got the ball up top, drove into the lane, then scored in traffic to extend the lead to four.

“I have great teammates who space the court for me,” Gelhar said. “I couldn’t do it without them. I was a little nervous but it’s nice when a shot goes in and everyone’s cheering for you.”

After Cormier was whistled for her fourth foul 35 seconds later, she got the rebound of a shot that was blocked by Giroux and with 1:39 left, Giroux was fouled and made one of two attempts to make it 33-28.

Falmouth hung tough, getting a runner from Stucker 14 seconds later, but after running the clock down to 34 seconds, Freeport got a point back when Gelhar made a foul shot.

At the other end, freshman Siobhan Nielsen was just off on a 3-pointer, but McPheeters got the offensive rebound and missed, but Nielsen got the rebound and was fouled.


With 17.1 seconds showing, Nielsen hit both free throws and the Navigators were suddenly within two.

Freeport was able to inbound the ball to Gelhar and she was fouled with 15.2 seconds to go.

Gelhar calmly sank the first attempt, then drained the critical second shot as well to make it a two possession game.

“I try and cancel out the noise,” said Gelhar. “There’s always noise in a gym like this. I knew my teammates, my family, my Grandma were cheering for me. I was trying to think of the positive stuff and try not to think about how big of a deal it was.”

The Navigators then weren’t able to get another shot off before Abbott made a layup with 2 seconds remaining, but the Falcons allowed the clock to run out and then celebrated their 36-34 victory.

“We went into the locker room (at halftime) and the captains took the lead and said we were going to win the game defensively,” Cormier said. “Our shots weren’t falling, but we were able to control our defensive effort. We did that and thankfully, our shots fell at the end. It’s the best feeling in the world. I’m so proud. I wouldn’t want to the Expo with any other team. We’re a young team. We have a freshman starting and she’s amazing. We’ve overcome so much.”


“I think it was just a team effort,” said Gelhar. “I’m so thankful for all my teammates. Everyone contributes. We have a great coach, a great staff, our fans travel great. That’s a big part of why we were so successful. It was exciting when the horn went off. There was a lot of pressure on this game.  ”

“We could have mailed it in, but this says more about them than me,” Farrington added. “Their competitive spirit is unbelievable and I’m lucky to coach them.”

Cormier had 15 points, six rebounds and two steals in another big-game performance.

“(Maddie) has the will to win and more important, she has the will to prepare to win,” Farrington said. “She prepares as hard as anybody. She takes film and scouting report seriously. Then, you match that with her competitive spirit.”

Gelhar finished with 13 points, including seven in the second half when the game was hanging in the balance.

“Sydney had a great game,” Farrington said. “Top five game of her career.”


Giroux added six points and DiRusso had two .

Freeport made 13-of-21 free throws and somehow only turned the ball over five times.


Falmouth was paced by McPheeters, who had nine points and 12 rebounds. Abbott added eight points and seven rebounds, while Christman contributed seven points, a game-high 15 rebounds and two blocked shots. Stucker had four points and Barter, Farraher and Nielsen finished with two apiece.

The Navigators had a commanding 38-18 advantage on the glass and made 6-of-10 free throws, but were done in by 20 turnovers.

“I think we played pretty well defensively,” said Falmouth coach Dawn Armandi. “We turned it over and got stops, but in the end, there were too many turnovers. It’s a great group of kids. They’ve just lacked confidence in pressure situations all year. We didn’t do a good job running our offense. We hung around the perimeter too much and didn’t attack them the way they attacked us. In the end, they scored two more points than we did.”


The Navigators, currently ranked 10th in Class A South (where just eight teams qualify for the tournament), has one game left, at home versus Westbrook Thursday, and plans to go out in style on their Senior Night.

“It’s Senior Night and we’ll always go for the ‘W,'” Armandi said. “We’ll go out and have fun and make memories our last time on the floor.

“I love this group of girls. I’m so proud to be their coach. I wish we got more wins because I believe they deserve to (be in the tournament).. It breaks my heart because they’re amazing kids.”

Not done yet

Freeport will return to action in two weeks, for the quarterfinals at the Portland Exposition Building. The Falcons, currently ranked seventh in Class A South, will either be ranked seventh or eighth and will face the daunting task of going up against a powerhouse in either reigning regional champion Brunswick or Gray-New Gloucester.

Freeport will be a decided underdog the next time it takes the court, but it’s never wise to bet against the Falcons.

“Anyone can have an off day or a great day,” Gelhar said. “It’ll come down to one game at a time. One minute at a time. One possession at a time. I’m thankful we get this opportunity. I wouldn’t count us out.”

“(Last year’s quarterfinal win over Mt. Ararat) gives us confidence,” Cormier said. “We were underdogs and pulled out a victory. We have to bring that underdog mentality again. We have nothing to lose. We’ll go out and play for each other.”

“I wouldn’t count out this group and I’ll leave it at that,” Farrington added.

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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