FREEPORT — Desperate.

That one word best described the way the Freeport High School girls’ basketball team approached Saturday night’s Western Maine Conference matchup with 8-5 Gray-New Gloucester, a Patriots team with a resume that includes wins over top Western Maine Class B teams Greely and Wells.

One night after a demoralizing loss to Yarmouth, the Falcons used an in-your-face defensive performance for a 54-46 upset, leaving Freeport at 5-9 and still with hopes of a solid finish and playoff spot.

Freeport received its usual solid performance from standout Nina Davenport, who scored 20 points, pulled down eight rebounds, dished out two assists and had three steals. But, it was the supporting cast that provided the spark, especially after Davenport picked up her fifth foul with 2:06 remaining and the Falcons nursing a 49-40 lead.

Point guard Ashley Richardson, generously listed at 5-foot tall on the game program, scored 10 points, including a key offensive rebound on a missed Freeport shot before passing to Jess Wall to complete the eight-point win. Vanessa Lee had nine tough points, most coming on solid work inside the paint, and the senior had six hard-nosed rebounds. Livvy Dimick, two 3-pointers, and Wall contributed six points apiece, providing the Falcons with a solid team effort.

“That was our best team performance of the year as far as executing our gameplan and doing what we needed to do to win,” said Freeport coach Jim Seavey, who had nothing but praise for Richardson. “She is the heart and soul of our team, and as good of a player as Nina is, Ashley is our spark plug and has the spunk to go out and compete. After last night’s loss, we had a talk and she wants to win in the worst way.”

“We played hard for 32 minutes, something that has been a struggle all season, and we really needed this win,” said Richardson. “We were able to take a lot of pressure off of Nina. Normally I am looking for the open player, but I took it upon myself tonight and it worked. We knew that we needed this game, and now we have Lake Region (13-1, No. 1 in Western B) on Wednesday, knowing we need another big effort if we want to get in.”

“They were desperate, very desperate,” said Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen, whose Patriots (8-6) visit Falmouth on Tuesday. “They played it like a playoff game. That is something that we need to do or we’re going to find ourselves falling back.”

Close early

Neither team claimed control in the first quarter, with three ties. The Falcons held an 11-9 lead as Davenport scored seven points, while Maria Valente answered with five for the Patriots.

Freeport owned the second quarter, outscoring the Patriots 19-9 for a 30-18 halftime lead. Gray-New Gloucester committed 13 first-half turnovers, with Valente matching Davenport’s 13 points.

“Maria is our leader, and in the first half she was the only one playing,” said Andreasen.

Freeport claimed its largest lead early in the third quarter when Lee put back her own miss for a 36-21 Falcons edge, and Richardson answered Valente’s two free throws with a short jumper.

The Patriots began a run when Alicia Dumont nailed a trey late in the quarter, and Valente’s drive and hoop brought the visitors to within 12 points, 40-28 after 24 minutes.

Like in the first half, Freeport was whistled for several fouls, and the Patriots made a steady trip to the charity stripe early in the fourth quarter. But, a 4-for-8 performance only reduced the deficit to eight points (40-32) before Lee hit a short jumper to move the Freeport lead back to double digits.

“We were missing foul shots, missing shots, but I am going to give Freeport credit, a team that had one foot in the grave, but one foot was still kicking and they kicked us tonight,” Andreasen said. “It was hard to dig out of that hole, down 12 and even 15 points, and knock down just one foul shot instead of two. You have to make those shots.”

Down 45-33 with 3:48 remaining, the Patriots made one last push. Lee and Davenport fouled out, and a 10-4 run closed the gap to 49-43 with 40 seconds remaining.

But, Lauren Cormier sank a free throw, and after Dumont hit a 3-pointer with 21 ticks remaining, Richardson calmly sank two free throws, and moments later grabbed a rebound and passed to Wall for the final points and the 54-46 win.

“When Nina was not on the floor, someone else had to step up, and tonight the kids did that,” said Seavey, whose Falcons shot 50 percent (21 of 42) from the floor and finished eight of 15 at the foul line.

“We all just really wanted this game,” said Lee. “We are not out of it. We know we can win out.”

Valente led all scorers with 27 points before fouling out with 1:01 remaining. She also had five steals. Dumont chipped in 11 points.

The Patriots were 13 of 39 (33 percent) from the field and 13 of 24 at the foul line.

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