GRAY — Gray-New Gloucester knew the Freeport press was coming.

The visiting Falcons’ plan worked for the first eight minutes of Tuesday night’s girls high school basketball game, but eventually, the Patriots’ half-court game took over.

Gray-New Gloucester used a dominant second quarter and lock-down defense to pull away and remain undefeated with a 64-33 Western Maine Conference win.

“I think we got out of doing what we were trying to do offensively,” Freeport coach Mike Hart said. “Kids started to do too much on their own. We started playing like individuals. Everyone was trying to make something happen and things just didn’t fall our way that way.”

Following a high-tempo first quarter in which the two sides split 30 points, Freeport (5-2) laid off a bit and switched to a half-court defense. Gray-NG (8-0) was more than ready, slinging the ball around the circle and waiting for things to open up. The Patriots caught fire and used a 17-6 run in the second frame to build a 12-point lead at the break.

“First quarter we pushed tempo, second quarter we played a half-court game,” Hart said. “We didn’t do the things, like fronting the post, that we wanted to do. Ball pressure got weak on the wing and that helped feed the post. (Gray-NG coach Mike Andreasen) did a great job of moving things around in the post and sealing our girls out. They did a good job finishing around the rim.”

Senior center Skye Conley did most of that finishing for Gray-NG, tallying a game-high 19 points and finishing a rebound shy of a double-double. Quick passes around the perimeter forced Freeport defenders wide and often left Conley wide open under the glass.

“The fact that we have three kids that can knock down three-point shots,” Andreasen said of Conley’s post play. “It opens up so Skye doesn’t get double-teamed. And Skye does a really good job finding other people. Early in the game she found some open people and that really kind of made it so they couldn’t double-team her anymore.”

“Being able to trust anyone on the court to make a basket really helps,” Conley said. “If I pass the ball out, I know that Grace (Kariotis) can make a three and so the people defending us have to go out and guard her, which opens up the middle. If I start making shots, they’re going to start collapsing. That opens up the shooters.”

Freeport didn’t have an answer and also struggled to score on the other end. The Falcons were stuck on 21 points for more than eight full minutes in the middle of the game and scored their first two-point bucket of the second half in the final minute of the third quarter. They scored just four points in the fourth.

Breaking press

It was a drastic switch from the opening eight minutes of the game, where quick dribbling and long passes down the court broke down the Gray-NG press and led to easy layups. Junior Taylor Rinaldi (eight points, two assists) made back-to-back lay-ups early in the frame to give Freeport a 9-6 advantage.

“A lot of it was we were so worried about our own players,” Andreasen said. “We weren’t playing team defense. They were on the perimeter and we’d glue to them. So when one of their players would drive, there’s no help-side. If there’s no help-side, they’re going to get the foul or make the shot.”

Freshman Caroline Smith, who led the Falcons in scoring with nine points, also made a few of those drives to the hoop, earning a hoop-and-harm call and hitting three free-throws in the second quarter.

Problem was, it was exactly when Gray-NG got hot. Senior Izzy DeTroy converted a hoop-and-harm just before Smith’s and finished with 13 points on the night. Center Jordan Grant finished with eight points and Kariotis notched six.

The defending Class B state finalists pulled in nine boards during the dominant second-quarter run.

“We just knew that we needed to kind of focus in more,” Conley said. “In the beginning, we were a little disorganized. We’ve been starting games a little slow, so once the second half came, we knew what we needed to do. We talked it over at halftime and kind of locked it down like we usually do.”

“We did a better job of working together, helping each other out, and it actually opened up our offense,” Andreasen said. “Our offense was slowed really from their pressure. That’s what Freeport plays and we expected it and it came at us. We were able to get some better looks offensively. Defensively, they really get after it.”

Megan Cormier finished with six points for Freeport, which had its five-game winning streak snapped. It was the first loss since a 40-20 setback on opening night.

“I would love us to come out and play with a little more mental toughness,” Hart said. “I think that will be the team’s ‘how far we go.’ If chips are down and we’re not doing that well, then hey, we’ve got to find a way to pull ourselves out of it as a group. That’s what we need to focus on here.”


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