POLAND — With each possession of the final quarter Saturday, Mike Susi would shout out new instructions for his team but would do so with one familiar refrain — “patience.”
The Knights followed those orders nicely. Poland was patient when it mattered most in a 49-38 win over Fryeburg.
“When we can be patient, we can work the ball and look for the best shot,” senior forward Caroline Littlefield said. “You don’t need to score and be up by a lot to work the ball and make the best shot possible.”
Poland was methodical on the offensive end and found the right shots at the right time to build the lead. Littlefield was a beneficiary of that operation. She scored six straight points in the fourth quarter to build a 41-34 advantage with 3:52 left.
“I was really happy that she asserted herself offensively,” Susi said. “That was big for us. We’ve been working with her to start asserting herself more and it was nice to see that.”
Michaella Arsenault led the Knights (4-1) with 21 points, including six in the final quarter. Littlefield and Hope Kohtala each finished with 11. Fryeburg (3-3) got 10 from Nicole Bennett and seven each from Sage Boivin and Mackenzie Buzzell.
“They’re a good team and they’re quick off the ball and on defense,” Arsensault said. “We just slowed the game down and played our game. We didn’t let them take over.”
It was a valuable game for the Knights, who were well down the Western B standings without many point-worthy victories.
“This was a huge game,” Susi said. “It was a rivalry game. You know they’re going to be there at the end. They’re going to beat some teams. We’re thinking we’re pretty equal and when we can get a win against a team that’s pretty equal, we’re doing pretty good.”
The Knights were up just 35-33 entering the final quarter. The Raiders trimmed the deficit with a Julia Quinn free throw to open the quarter. Poland tried to work the ball on its offensive sets and wait for an open look.
Arsenault found Littlefield cutting through the lane and fed her for the basket with 4:48 left. The Knights followed that with a Littlefield drive when she had space in the paint with 4:12 left. Then she drew a foul on another possession and sank two free throws for a 41-34 lead with 3:52 remaining.
“That all goes to my team,” Littlefield said. “We work hard together and we work really well. We’ve learned our offenses and somehow people get open.”
Fryeburg shot 1-for-8 in the fourth and didn’t get its lone field goal until a Buzzell rebound with 3:20 left. After two free throws by Kohtala, the Raiders got a pair from the line by Boivin to get within five with 2:06 remaining. Arsenault finished off the win with a drive and then four free throws in the final minute.
“Michaella made a bunch of shots throughout the game,” Susi said. “She had a huge layup late in the game. She had a shot and made two foul shots. She stepped up. She’s a great player and made plays down the stretch.”
It was nip-and-tuck game the whole way. Poland built a 15-12 lead in the first after an Arsenault 3 broke the tie at the buzzer. The Knights had the lead up to 26-18 late in the second but a 3 by Bennett made it 26-21 at the break.
The Raiders ran off seven straight in the third to tie the game, but Poland never allowed Fryeburg to get the lead. Two free throws by Morgan Brousseau made it 35-33 after three.
“When they came back, we knew we had to stay calm and we pushed ahead,” Arsenault said.