PORTLAND — Last year, the Freeport girls’ basketball team advanced to the Class B South regional final. 

Coming into Tuesday’s Class B South quarterfinal against No. 6 Mountain Valley at the Portland Expo, those on the outside might have thought that third-seeded Freeport had the experience to quiet the nerves that often come during tournament basketball.

Freeport defeated Mountain Valley, 49-37, but there were times first-year coach Seth Farrington’s team looked unsure of itself. It might be that only junior standout Caroline Smith, who had 20 points in the win, was the lone Freeport player to see significant playing time last season, and with no seniors on this year’s squad, Freeport entered the contest a “young” team on the Expo floor. 

“We were a little bit nervous early on the big floor,” said Farrington after his team made just 4-of-15 first-quarter shots and held a slim 9-7 lead. “We competed well. But we are sick and injured. Our starting five played limited minutes. We had a player like Catriona Gould, who had a 100-and-something degree temperature last night, but played some big minutes. Cat and many others played big-time today.”

Mountain Valley also struggled in the opening eight minutes, going 3-of-15 from the floor, with sophomore Rylee Sevigny picking up five of those points. 

It was the second quarter that decided this one, as Freeport found its game to the tune of 22 points, including Smith’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and a 31-16 halftime lead. 

Freeport made 10-of-16 shots and owned the paint, with Rachel Wall putting in 12 first-half points and grabbing six rebounds and Smith leading all scorers with 13 points, including 10 in the second frame. 

“We had a heck of a second quarter,” Farrington said.

“We knew going in that anything is possible, so we wanted to go out and play our game, just do the best that we could,” said Wall, who contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds in the win. “We knew that we needed to get a lead then extend it in the second quarter. We stepped it up and felt that energy that we needed.”

Defensive change

Mountain Valley turned to a full-court press in the third quarter. Head coach Craig Milledge continually changed his team’s defensive looks in the frame, leading to an 11-6 scoring advantage.

“We tried to do a number of things to mess with their rhythm, but good teams seem to find it no matter what the defense does, and they did,” Milledge said. “We came down expecting to win. I don’t want my girls to just be content to be on this floor.”

“We thought we would catch them of-guard and cause some turnovers, and we did,” Sevigny added.

Sevigny, a sophomore, continued to find room, picking up seven of her team’s third-quarter points. Courtney Carrier added four while providing a big body in the paint to combat the size of Freeport, which featured three players (Wall, Mason Baker-Schlendering and Hannah Groves) who stand 5-foot-10 or taller. 

“With our size it is easier to post up and get those layups,” Wall said. “Mountain Valley had some shorter girls, which gave us more of an opportunity inside as opposed to shooting 3-pointers.” 

A free throw by Saydie Garbarini drew Mountain Valley to within eight points, 41-33, with 4:31 remaining, but Smith took over from there for Freeport.

She made a free throw, then stole the ball from Sevigny and passed to Wall for two points and a 44-33 advantage. Another Smith bucket upped the lead to 13, and moments later she teamed up with Gould for a steal, and Gould scored an uncontested layup for the clincher. 

“Those steals showed us that if we work as a team, we are good. We really wanted this game,” Wall said. 

Mountain Valley finishes the season at 13-6. Milledge loses seniors Taylor Henry, Leigha Carrier and Courtney Carrier. 

“I am incredibly proud. We are youngish, but we are losing those three valuable seniors. Their roles were different game to game, but they’re amazing people. We lose locker room presence and leadership,” Milledge said. “We do return a lot, and next year’s mission will be the same — to have a good regular season and return here, with more success.” 

“I am proud of us. Our shots just weren’t falling tonight, and Freeport played a heck of a game,” added Sevigny, who led Mountain Valley with 20 points and grabbed five rebounds. 

Freeport was 21-of-60 (35 percent) from the field. Baker-Schlendering had nine rebounds as Freeport held a 40-33 edge on the boards. 

Courtney Carrier finished with a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds), and Garbarini pulled down 10 boards. Mountain Valley was 14-of-48 (29 percent) from the field. 

Freeport (15-4) meets Western Maine Conference rival Cape Elizabeth (9-10), the No. 7 seed, on Thursday at Cross Insurance Arena. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m.