POLAND — The first-half version of Poland was a team that is learning to win and gaining confidence from its victories.

That ended up being enough for the Knights to beat Mountain Valley 37-26 in a girls basketball contest on Saturday.

Poland (11-6) in the second half played like a team that is still learning how to win.

“It’s a learning-to-win process for the team that didn’t win last year,” Knights coach Jake Webb said. “And they’re still, even though it’s 11 wins, it’s still learning to win every day, and every game is different. You’ve got to learn how to deal with what’s in front of you and keep going.”

Poland scored the first nine points of the game, with each starter contributing at least a point.

Mountain Valley (7-9) cut the gap to four points with a 7-2 run, but the Knights scored the final five points, including a 3-pointer right before the buzzer by freshman Charlotte Grenier that gave them a 16-7 lead after one.


It took Poland more than four minutes to score in the second period, but the Falcons were limited to a basket by Brooke Brown during that stretch.

Another Poland freshman, Phoebe Paradis, scored the next five points, one of those a 3 that came moments after she made a steal in the Knights’ full-court press. Thea Thornton added two free throws to push Poland’s lead to 23-9.

“We just played together so well compared to how we have been. We had so much more fun on the court in the first half,” Thornton said.

Ali Mazza hit a 3 for Mountain Valley, but the Knights scored five more points and took a 27-12 advantage into halftime.

Eight Poland players scored in the first half, led by Thorton’s eight and five apiece by Grenier and Paradis.

“Our offense was clicking in the first half. I mean, made all the right passes,” Webb said. “And the second half, I think they kind of changed up a little bit on us, caught the girls off-guard. But they eventually figured it out, kind of stuck it out, and stuck through it.”


The Knights didn’t score in the second half until Ruby Taylor made a 3-pointer two and a half minutes into the third quarter.

Nicole Rioux made a basket with 3:44 left in the period that gave Poland a 32-17 lead, but that ended up being the Knights’ final field goal of the game.

Their defense, though, was holding up.

“Our defense was fantastic today,” Webb said. “That’s been our calling card for every year I’ve been here, is our defense. They just crank it up when they need to, and they’ve been great with it.”

The Falcons were coming off a big win over Winthrop on Friday night, and coach Peter Chase said it took them some time to get going Saturday.

“We didn’t really change anything in the second half,” Chase said. “The girls just kind of woke up a little bit and started playing our brand of basketball. I kind of got into them a little bit at halftime, and … what you saw in the second half is what we do, and we’re good.”


Mountain Valley made four free throws to cut its deficit to 32-21 after three quarters.

Both defenses remained stout for the entire fourth quarter.

The Falcons were able to turn their hustle into a couple of baskets. Brooke Brown stole the ball from behind on a Poland fast break, then took the ball down court, where she faked out a defender and hit a baseline jumper.

A short time later, Madison Dow turned a steal into a fast-break layup that cut Poland’s lead to 33-25 near the midway point of the fourth.

Dow finished with five points — all of them scored during the 8-1 run that got Mountain Valley within eight points — but also grabbed 10 rebounds and had eight steals.

“She does that every game. We just expect it from her,” Chase said. “… She’s all over the place. She’s always on the floor …


“She’s the kind of girl that every coach wants to coach.”

The next three minutes were a series of alternating turnovers — overthrown passes, 3-second and over-and-back violations, balls knocked out of bounds off opposing players — and jump balls.

Layce Bouchard hit a free throw to get the Falcons within seven points, 33-26, with 48 seconds remaining.

But Poland sealed the victory with a pair of free throws apiece by Payton Rose and Thornton.

Thornton led all scorers with 10 points. The senior also recorded five rebounds and three steals.

“She has been that leader for us for three straight years — and four straight years, really, but we had COVID the first year,” Webb said. “But she has been the go-to and the person that always seems to, when the girls are in doubt, they look to her and she steps up and takes care of it. A calming presence.”


Grenier, Paradis, Rioux and Taylor each contributed five points to the victory.

Brown was Mountain Valley’s top scorer with nine points.


The Knights have now won five consecutive games, their second five-game winning streak of the season after starting the season 1-5 (the one win over Mountain Valley, 43-33, on Dec. 12) and going winless last season.

Thornton said Poland gained game-changing confidence from its 27-24 win on Jan. 6 over Biddeford, which is 11-6 and ranked eighth in Class B South.

“We went on a win streak. We had a huge win against Biddeford, which really bumped up our confidence, I feel,” Thornton said, later adding: “It was that Biddeford game that we really were like, we can win games. Because we knew coming into the season that we could win games, but it was that Biddeford game that really made us realize we’re better than a lot of teams.”


Poland stands sixth in Class C South and has all but locked up a postseason berth, no small thing for a team that has struggled to win the past few seasons.

“I would say, as a group, us, the coaches and the girls are feeling fantastic about what we’ve done and the progress we’ve made in this program,” Webb said.

Webb said his assistant coaches have played a big role in the Knights’ turnaround.

“I feel like I have the best coaching staff — with Chris Cifelli, Brian Hamlin, Lexy Grondin — in the state,” Webb said. “It’s great when I can just look down the bench and get an idea or get some input on something. And that can’t be overlooked with all the success we’ve had this year.”

Poland finishes the regular season on Tuesday against Cape Elizabeth (0-17).

The Falcons, meanwhile, are in a tight battle for the 10th and final playoff spot in Class B South, having taken over 10th place in the Heal point standings with Friday’s win over Winthrop.

They finish the season at rival Dirigo (5-11) on Monday — “A rivalry game, it doesn’t matter what your records are, it’s always a battle,” Chase said — and then host Kents Hill (1-14) on Wednesday.

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