Cony girls basketball coach John Dennett and players celebrate after they won the Class A North championship over Lawrence on Feb. 23 at the Augusta Civic Center. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

PORTLAND — They’re two girls basketball programs familiar with this stage, albeit for vastly different reasons.

For Cony, the Class A championship game is the place it’s been more than anyone — 13 times. For Brunswick, it’s a place it was last year, when Lawrence denied it a state title at the final hurdle.

It’s a stage where one of them will come away with glory Saturday afternoon. It will yield either an eighth Gold Ball for the Cony program or a long-awaited first in the trophy case for Brunswick in an all-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference showdown at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting game,” said Brunswick head coach Sam Farrell. “With the eight days between the (regional) tournament and states feel, it can feel like a long time — it can feel like weeks. I know both teams are ready to get out there and play.”

Cony (14-7), the No. 3 seed out of Class A North, is back in a state final for the first time in 12 years. The Rams, whose seven regular season losses came against one of the state’s most difficult schedules, reached this point by dominating the second halves of tournament games against Brewer, Hampden Academy and Lawrence.

The 54-46 win over Lawrence gave Cony the signature victory it had been looking for after a number of oh-so-nears. The Rams had fallen just short against the Bulldogs, Mt. Ararat and Oxford Hills in the regular season, but this win, which came at the same neutral site where Lawrence beat them in December, was vindication.


Cony girls basketball players celebrate as time runs out in the Class A North final on Feb. 23 in Augusta. The Rams beat Lawrence to reach their first state final since 2012. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It felt very good,” said Cony head coach John Dennett. “I told them after we lost that game at the Civic Center in the Capital City Hoop Classic, ‘Hey, ladies, you can play with them.’ They knew that they could compete with them and could beat that team, and they believed in themselves.”

Cony has been known to shoot the 3 well, which it did in draining 12 in just three quarters against Skowhegan earlier in the year and seven in the second half in the quarterfinal win over Brewer. Morgan Cunningham (16.0 points per game) is averaging more than three triples per game for the Rams.

The Rams could use another of those performances Saturday afternoon against Brunswick (19-2), the No. 2 seed out of A South. In single-elimination basketball, one hot shooting performance can be all it takes, something Farrell is wary of given Cony’s success from beyond the arc this season.

“They’ve got a lot of playmakers, and every one of them can shoot,” Farrell said. “You need to contest their shots because, when those girls are open, it seems to go in. We’ll need to do that and then limit them to one shot per possession by rebounding. They rebound well; they play bigger than they really are.”

Indeed, while Cony might not have a player as tall as Brunswick 6-footer Dakota Shipley (9.4 rebounds per game), the Rams are so slounches themselves on the boards. Abby Morrill (9.1 rebounds per game) and Morgan Fichthorn (8.8 per game) frequently take on larger players, which will certainly be their task Saturday.

Brunswick girls basketball players celebrate after they beat Mt. Ararat 39-30 in the Class A South final on Feb. 23 in Portland. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

“They’re big, they’re physical, they play that matchup zone, and they fly around,” Dennett said of Brunswick. “They like to get inside, and if they’re able to get shots outside and do the hi-lo stuff, they’re going to be tough to beat. We need to box out and rebound, and if we can knock down shots, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”


Brunswick will look to Shipley (16.4 points per game), who has also shown 3-point prowess this season in addition to her dominance down low, as its top option offensively. The Dragons, though, have two other weapons in Maddy Werner (11.1 points per game) and Lexi Morin (10 points, 4.6 assists per game). 

Yet Brunswick’s true strength lies in its defense, which allowed just 67 points over three games in the Southern Maine tournament. The Dragons have the KVAC’s No. 1 and No. 2 shot blockers in Werner (3.3 blocks per game) and Shipley (2.8 per game), respectively, and Morin is third in the conference in steals (5 per game).

Brunswick is still chasing its elusive first Gold Ball after losing to Lawrence in last year’s state title game and falling to Messalonskee in 2017. Farrell, though, insists this team wasn’t out to right what went wrong against the Bulldogs last year but rather to cement a new legacy with a championship.

“We’re not worried about last year, if I’m being honest,” Farrell said. “Our goal this year has been to win the next game in front of us, and right now, the state championship is the next game in front of us. That’s been our mindset all year, and frankly, I think that’s the right mindset to have.”

It will be a tough test for a Cony team that hasn’t faced a defense as stifling as Brunswick’s this season and is at, senior Maci Freeman admitted, a size disadvantage. It’s not a challenge, though, that a Rams team that’s fought them off all season long thinks for a second it can’t handle.

“They’re a lot bigger and maybe even a stronger team than us, but we’re used to that; we’re used to going up against those bigger teams and having to win,” Freeman said. “We just fight through adversity and push through, and that’s what we’ll have to do.”

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