Winthrop senior captains Jillian Schmelzer, left, and Natalie Frost celebrate with the net they cut down after beating Boothbay in the Class C South championship game Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

WINTHROP — After grinding their ways through their respective regional tournaments, don’t expect a defensive struggle when Winthrop and Central Aroostook meet for the Class C state championship Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

Both the South champion Ramblers (19-2) and the North champion Panthers (18-4) would much rather worry about scoring points than preventing them.

“We’re a lot like Winthrop,” said Central Aroostook head coach Dillon Kingsbury, whose team beat Stearns in the regional championship. “We kind of mirror each other. We want to get out and run. We like to shoot it from 3, take the first good look. For us, that first good look you’d better be shooting or you’re probably going to hear the horn and get a sub the next time we can.”

Though Winthrop scored just 38 points in its regional final win over Boothbay, the only team to beat the Ramblers during the regular season, scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Southern champs. Winthrop scored 60 or more points 10 times during the regular season and 55 five or more twice in three regional tournament games.

Central Aroostook also hit the 60-point plateau 10 times during the season, including twice scoring in the 90s and once more in the 80s.

“They’re a very talented group of kids,” Winthrop coach Joe Burnham said. “They’ve got a couple girls who can just flat-out play basketball. It’s going to be a really fun, back-and-forth game. I think we play good defense, but we don’t pride ourselves on that. If you gave me a choice between giving up 30 or scoring 70, I want to score 70.”


While Winthrop was a No. 1 seed in its own tournament, Central Aroostook emerged out of the North as a No. 6 even with 14 wins during the regular season.

Winthrop senior Aaliyah WilsonFalcone squeezes through Carrabec defenders Skye Welch, left, and Julia Baker during a Class C South quarterfinal game earlier this month at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Part of that has to do with the Panthers’ schedule. With so many Class D teams on the slate, there weren’t a lot of Heal points available many nights.

Of the four losses the Panthers own, two of them were by a combined three points to Class B Houlton and the other two came at the hands of Class D North champion Southern Aroostook.

“We got hot at the right time. Everything was clicking for us,” Kingsbury said.

Balance is a staple of both teams.

Three different players led Winthrop in scoring during the regional tournament, with senior guards Madison Forgue and Aaliyah WilsonFalcone and forward Kena Souza each taking turns as the primary scorers for the Ramblers.


For Central Aroostook, a good mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen — including several eighth-graders — boasts the same type of shared scoring the Ramblers feature.

Junior point guard Maci Beals and senior forward Breann Bradbury are the Panthers’ leading scorers, but the threat isn’t limited to those two.

“They’ve been our most consistent scorers, but then we’ve got three guards (Libby Grass, Sydney Garrison, Liberty Fulton) who can score, too,” Kingsbury said. “Sometimes one of them has 12 points on any given night, and then another night they might not score.”

Winthrop is seeking its second Class C state title, having won its only championship in 1990. For Central Aroostook, a win Saturday would be the program’s third — having won back-to-back Gold Balls in 1981-82.

That first Panther title came in a 55-49 win over Winthrop.

“When you start matching up with them height-wise and size-wise, some of those (Aroostook) county teams are huge,” Burnham said. “They match up much better with us.”

Central Aroostook, of course, has played second fiddle this week up north — if only because the school’s boys team lost its regional final to Dexter on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that sparked days of debate over the use of instant replay in Maine’s high school basketball tournament.

The Panther girls have not had any such controversy to worry about.

“Everyone is kind of hot and bothered about the way the boys game ended, but I don’t think we’re overlooked,” Kingsbury said. “The school has a good buzz around it about our game. People have realized what an accomplishment the girls team is going through.”

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