POLAND — Sixth-seeded Poland controlled Tuesday’s Class C South preliminary girls basketball game from the start, winning 58-39 over 11th-seeded Buckfield and advancing to the next round of playoffs.

Poland (13-6) will face third-seeded Richmond (16-2) in the quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center on Feb. 20.

The Knights are coming off an 0-18 season last year, and senior Thea Thornton said this playoff run is the Knights’ first since 2018. Poland coach Jake Webb said it’s been a “tremendous turnaround” for the team, and that he gets to coach the “greatest group of young ladies in the world.”

“It’s one of the most amazing feelings I’ve had in so long,” Thornton said. “We went from 0-18 (last season) to 12-6 (now 13-6) and are going to the Civic Center. I couldn’t imagine it last year, and the whole team is so excited. It’s the best feeling.”

Poland’s Charlotte Grenier had the home crowd on its feet in the first quarter when she made back-to-back 3-pointers.

“Charlotte’s a tremendously talented offensive player,” Webb said. “She’s a freshman, and she just continues to do what she should do and anything we ask offensively of her.”


Grenier’s 3s were among the many example of offensive dominance by Knights early in the game. They put up 17 points to Buckfield’s four, all scored by Sarae DeVoe, in the opening period.

The Bucks (9-10) again struggled to gain offensive traction again in the second quarter, and they matched their first quarter output with four points.

Buckfield coach Troy Eastman said the Bucks have “never really been in a playoff game before,” which contributed to the nerves at the start of the game.

“There’s a lot of people here, it’s a good atmosphere, so I just think in the beginning they were a little bit unsure and nervous,” Eastman said. “Eventually, I think it just turned into a basketball game, and they let their reactions and athleticism take over and (stopped) overthinking.”

Poland, meanwhile, turned steals and turnovers into points.

Grenier added her third trey of the game and nearly every Knights player who hit the court made a statistical impact.


Addison Smith and Maya Balkir each logged a steal, and Balkir said she was laser-focused on “just getting the ball,” while knowing her teammates would have her back if she missed the steal.

“Defensively, we played fantastic,” Webb said. “We are very good defensive team. We had a little bit of a lull in the third quarter, where our intensity dropped and they came up … then we just turned it on — it was almost like flipping the switch in the fourth quarter and they came back out and started making stops.”

Thornton said the Knights were confident in their ability to play a full game going into Tuesday’s matchup.

“When we walked in, I could tell every single one of our teammates were ready to go,” Thornton said. “That’s a huge thing when it comes to our game. We’re so confident, we’re so hyped up, and we know that we can play well, now, at the next level.”

Thornton’s parents used to work at Poland Regional High School, and she remembers watching 2018 graduate Nathalie Theriault and the Knights go on a few playoff runs. So it means a lot to Thornton to be playing in the postseason with this year’s team.

Buckfield had an effective halftime discussion and put up 19 points in the third quarter. DeVoe contributed 11 of those points and finished with a game-high 22.


Poland coach Jake Webb said the Bucks never stopped playing, and shouted out their second-half offensive acceleration.

The Knights only scored 10 points, including a pair of 3s by Thornton, in the period, but still led 39-27.

Poland’s defense stood out, as did its hustle, with things like Thornton getting rebounds off her own shot and defensive standout Nicole Rioux saving multiple balls from going out of bounds.

Webb said Poland usually runs a 10-man roster, but every player except Gretchyn Paradis, who is injured, saw the court Thursday. The Knights’ depth and scoring capability was just as evident as the cohesion on the court, which they maintained throughout all four quarters.

During the fourth quarter, Balkir said her coaches looked at her on the bench and said, “We’re going to the Augusta Civic Center,” and that’s when she knew how much this season means.

Balkir said she’s also proud of the returners for coming back — after everything the team went through last year and all of the heartbreaking losses, game after game — to make this season happen.


Buckfield also made a big turnaround this season, winning nine games after only winning two last year.

Despite Tuesday’s loss, Eastman said he’s proud of the Bucks for never giving up, even when facing a 20-point deficit.

“I was proud of them. And I thought they had a choice, do we compete or are we good for the year?” Eastman said. “I love that the seniors played hard and there was good leadership there. They decided to compete, which I thought was really good.”

Eastman said that the aspects the Bucks will miss most about the graduating senior class is the effort and resiliency during tough games, while also supporting each other on and off the court. He said the seniors have shown the team how to take risks, and that it’s OK to struggle, because by taking chances, the chances of succeeding only grow.

Poland’s top scorer was Thornton with 14 points. Grenier and Breanna Bartlett each logged nine points.

“I don’t think anybody was like the star of the show,” Balkir said. “I feel like usually we have certain players who shine more or score more in a game, but I feel like we all pretty evenly distributed the work and the effort.”

Looking to the next game, Webb said he’ll “worry about that tomorrow,” and relish the victory for the night.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.