GRAY — Gray-New Gloucester overcame Freeport’s strong press defense, impressive runs and the loss of its top player to earn a 38-33 girls basketball win at home Thursday. 

With 3:19 left in the game and the Patriots (5-1) clinging to a fragile 30-26 lead, Jordan Grant notched her fifth and final foul and left the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. 

Last year, Gray-NG could lean on the now-graduated Bri Jordan when Grant went out, and vice versa, but this was the first time this season that the Patriots had to find a way to win without Jordan. 

“It’s the first time we have been in that situation without our leader, it was uncharted waters tonight,” Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen said.

The Patriots’ other four starting seniors stepped up and picked up the slack. 

Sam Fortin scored back-to-back layups after Abbey Michaud answered a Freeport (4-2) layup with two made free throws to quickly give the Patriots a 36-28 lead with a little less than two minutes left in the game. 

“Sam Fortin, she had I think six points down the stretch and made big plays and she did a great job,” Andreasen said. “It wasn’t just Sam, it was the ball-handling, getting Mady West back for the first time this year.

“We start five seniors and so they’ve been through the wars before, and I think that helps in a game like this. It was a high-intensity game for a regular season game, but with the run we have done in the past, I think it helped us even without Jordan.”

Fortin said her team was prepared for the final minutes without Grant. 

“We just decided we have to keep playing,” Fortin said. “(Not having Grant) is a loss, but everyone still plays well together and we picked it up and didn’t play like we were down and it didn’t get in anyone’s head. I think that was important.”

Freeport’s Rachel Wall scored four points without Grant on the floor to finish with 13, but the Patriots were able to hang on to the win. 

The Falcons entered the game with a plan on defense aimed at limiting Grant as much as possible. 

“When you have a dynamite player like Jordan, you really have to send bodies, multiple bodies, show length, size, and even then she’s hard to control,” Freeport coach Seth Farrington said.

The Falcons were double-, triple- and even quadruple-teaming Grant when the ball made it to her in the post. It worked early, to an extent, as Grant finished the first frame with only four points.

Gray-New Gloucester’s Eliza Hotham drilled a 3-pointer right before the first-quarter buzzer to put the Patriots up 7-4 heading into the second. 

The Falcons turned up the defensive pressure by matching up the Patriots players at midcourt. That allowed Freeport’s quick guards to get arms in the passing lanes and tally seven steals in the second quarter alone. 

“What they were doing was, if the kid dribbled one way, they doubled her and forced her to make a blind pass,” Andreasen said. “We addressed it at halftime and said don’t dribble into pressure.”

Grant only scored a layup in the second quarter but finished the half with six boards and a block. 

For Freeport, Caroline Smith scored five of her 15 total points in the second quarter and Wall tallied four as the Falcons outscored the Patriots 9-6 to cut Gray-NG’s lead to 15-13 at the break.

Smith also made three steals and grabbed two offensive rebounds that both turned into put-backs. 

In the third quarter, Gray-NG focused on its half-court defense, and the man-to-man defense did its job.

Fortin said the team relaxed after the half and settled into its defense.

“I think we just needed to calm down,” Fortin said. “We were a little frantic at the beginning and we just needed to get out of our heads.”

Offensively, the Patriots found success with a makeshift style similar to the football team that plays in Foxborough.

“Our offense doesn’t have a great shooter,” Andreasen said. “We kind of have to create our own, we are kind of like the (New England) Patriots — when our defense is working, that’s good enough, and tonight Brady went down.”

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