AUGUSTA — Loosely translated from Spanish, ‘ganas’ refers to the desire to move forward. Appropriately, a sign with that very word adorns a bulletin board in the Boothbay girls basketball team’s locker room, and they took its inspiration to heart Thursday afternoon.
Racked by team-wide illness this week and without their best player for most of the game, the top-seeded Seahawks ensured a much-anticipated tournament rematch with Monmouth by storming back from a nine-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat No. 4 Madison 53-45 in the Class C South semifinals at the Augusta Civic Center.
Freshman Glory Blethen drained a pair of crucial 3-pointers in consecutive trips down the floor and senior Page Brown scored six of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, as Boothbay (20-0) remained unbeaten to advance to the regional finals against Monmouth on Saturday night. Monmouth, which won its semifinal earlier in the afternoon, bounced the Seahawks from the tournament a year ago.
“It means desire,” Boothbay coach Brian Blethen said of the Seahawks’ adopted motto. “That’s what they did today — they fueled themselves with desire, with ganas.”
Madison senior guard Sydney LeBlanc led the Bulldogs (17-4) with 19 points, while Lauren Hay added 13.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Odd that a player who only got a small handful of minutes off the bench would fall into this category, but that’s exactly where Boothbay senior Faith Blethen found herself in the win.
Blethen, who will play college basketball at Division I George Washington University next year, has been battling illness this week and didn’t enter the game until just 2:05 remained in the first half. She finished out the second quarter, started the third and played just under three minutes.
She was used sparingly after that, but her impact on the game was unmistakable.
“As a senior, I was thinking that this could hurt our chances to get to a regional final or a state championship game,” said Brown, noting that the team was informed on Wednesday that Blethen would not be available. “She provides a spark for us. She pumps up her teammates and tries to make everyone better.”
Blethen came out for the start of the fourth quarter, in which Boothbay capped off a 14-2 run that saw the Seahawks erase a nine-point, third quarter deficit to take their first lead at 41-40 on Blethen’s bucket with 6:21 remaining.
“I sensed it from Boothbay. It looked like they picked up on that,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said of the lift Blethen’s presence gave the Seahawks. “When Faith came back in, that changed things a little bit.”
TURNING POINT: Sydney LeBlanc’s 3-pointer from the right side handed Madison a 40-35 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were outscored 18-5 the rest of the way.
“We got into a little bit of foul trouble, and with Brown, Blethen and Blethen, it’s hard to guard all three of them when you’re in foul trouble,” Veneziano said. “When you get to a point where you’re ahead, you like to think you’re going to pull that out.”
FILLING IN: With Faith Blethen ill and Page Brown in foul trouble, the Seahawks turned to their future to get through the present.
Glory Blethen and Kylie Brown, the freshmen younger sisters of Boothbay’s senior leadership, finished with 11 and eight points, respectively. Kylie Brown was in the starting lineup in place of Faith Blethen.
“I was pretty scared, having to fill Faith’s shoes,” Kylie Brown said. “She does everything on the court. She rebounds, she shoots, she plays all-around really well. I was nervous.”
With Boothbay having taken a 41-40 lead early in the fourth quarter — its first lead since it was 18-15 early in the second quarter — Glory Blethen sank back-to-back 3-pointers from identical spots on the floor to begin pulling the Seahawks away.
“All of these girls have the green light to shoot,” Brian Blethen said. “This was a team win.”