Oak Hill’s Kaitlyn Ridley, left and Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone jockey for position under the basket as they vye for a rebound during a game last month in Winthrop. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Hebron Academy, Mt. Abram, St. Dominic Academy and Winthrop help open the girls’ basketball postseason Tuesday in Class C South preliminary games.
Winthrop finished at 7-11 and squeaked into the 14th and final prelim position while Old Orchard Beach went 15-3 and drew the No. 3 seed.
“They have a lot of size and a lot of quickness,” said Winthrop coach Joe Burnham, who watched the Seagulls defeated Sacopee Valley last week. “But the strength of their team is their guards.”
Freshman Shani Plante and senior Kaitlyn Cote give OOB a tough guard combination while sophomore Maggie Strohm is a force in the middle at 6-foot-2. While Boothbay and Monmouth are the favorites in C South, and for good reason, the Seagulls could disrupt the Seahawks’ and Mustangs’ path to the regional final. OOB’s resume includes a win over Gray-New Gloucester, the top team in B South.
The Ramblers have played well despite a long losing streak and tough schedule to end the season. Sophomores Jillian Schmelzer and Kena Souza have come on strong the second half of the season and give the team depth and scoring.
“We’re playing our best basketball even if our record doesn’t reflect it,” Burnham said. “In order to beat them we need to put pressure on them, then rebound.”
Should the Ramblers win win they’ll face the winner of Richmond-Waynflete in the opening round of the tournament.
The Richmond girls (13-5) finished sixth in Class C South and will host No. 11 Waynflete (6-12), a team Richmond coach Mike Ladner hasn’t seen live.
“I’ve seen them on film,” Ladner said. “They’re athletic and they like to score off fast breaks. The offense runs through Lydia (Giguere).”
Richmond’s offense runs through senior Sydney Tilton, who averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds a game. When defenses collapse on Tilton the Bobcats have capable outside shooters in Caitlin Kendrick, Ashley Abbott and Arianna Kelsey.
“I’m hoping we can press them and make them make poor decisions,” Ladner said.
No. 5 Hebron (13-3) hosts No. 12 Mt. Abram in a rematch of last year’s preliminary-round matchup, which was won by the Roadrunners.
Also Tuesday, No. 4 Madison (15-3) hosts No. 13 Carrabec (7-11), a team it beat twice during the regular season.
Kents Hill girls basketball coach Luke Wamboldt is trying to convince his Huskies they can beat an opponent that defeated them by more than 30 points (55-21) earlier this season.
The Huskies (13-5) finished seventh and will host No. 10 St. Dominic (10-8) on Tuesday night.
The winner earns a trip to the Class C South quarterfinals next week in Augusta as preliminary round games get under way this week.
The Saints played a tougher schedule, including some Class B teams, while the Huskies feasted on a schedule comprised primarily of Class D teams.
“They’re a very good team,” Wamboldt said. “They’ve got good guards and they press a lot.”
Wamboldt’s team has come a long way since that loss, but how far remains to be seen.
“I think it will be a pretty competitive game this time,” he said.
Junior point guard Lauren Murray was just returning from injury that game and getting acclimated to her teammates. The Cony High transfer has averaged 14 points a game since and helped solidify the offense.
If they can break the Saints pressure, the Huskies hope to exploit their height advantage with 6-footers Tiffany McGhie and Jami Hewins in the starting lineup. McGhie averages 15 points a game and can go inside and out while Hewins likes to post up.
In Class C South boys prelims Wednesday, No. 7 Madison (9-9) hosts No. 11 Old Orchard Beach (9-9) and No. 6 Boothbay (13-5) hosts No. 11 Carrabec (6-12).
Madison and Old Orchard didn’t meet in the regular season but Madison coach Jason Furbush has scouted the Seagulls.
“They’re fairly young with good size,” he said. “They have a good point guard (Ian Regan) who can score and they have some athletes.”
The Bulldogs return some players who reached the regional final a year ago and hope that experience pays off. Seniors Sean Whalen (15 ppg) and Evan Bess (13 ppg.) led the team in scoring while Jacob Meader was the team’s top rebounder.
“We’ve got to play our game,” Furbush said. “Rebound and play defense.”
Carrabec would appear a decided underdog against Boothbay but the Cobras did defeat the Seahawks on their home court in their lone meeting this year.
In a Class B boys North action Wednesday No. 7 Washington Academy (13-5) hosts No. 10 Maine Central Institute (9-9). The teams didn’t meet this season but have three common opponents, defeating them all.
Sun Journal assistant sports editor Lee Horton contributed to this report.