OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Heading into last Thursday's matchup, the final regular season game for both teams, Old Orchard Beach and Freeport were both on roll. The Seagulls had won their last seven games, while Freeport had won its last five.
The winning streak could only continue for one of them, and in the end it was Freeport, who slowly built a lead over four quarters for a 51-37 win, improving to 12-6 on the year after a 6-6 start.
The Falcons secured an eighth seed in Class B West with the win, setting them up with a preliminary matchup against No. 9 Marshwood in Freeport on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The winner will take on No. 1 Lake Region Feb. 18 at 8:30 p.m. at the Portland Expo.
With the loss, Old Orchard Beach finessed at 13-5, good enough for third place in Class C West and a first-round bye. They'll play the winner of No. 6 Monmouth and No. 11 Kents Hill.
“We were 2-3 to start the year, then we were 6-6, [then] we had the potential to win out. We could very well host next Wednesday night rather than going on the road,” Freeport head coach Jim Seavey said after the game, before the final standings were released. “We did our part, we had to win to have any kind of chance to host, and we did that.”
Old Orchard Beach coach Dean Plante was confident that finishing the regular season on a loss wouldn’t impact his squad’s confidence one bit.
“This team’s solid, mentally, emotionally, and physically,” he said. “You can’t rattle them; they’re tough kids. They’ve been through a lot this week, and they didn’t miss a beat. They practice hard, they work hard.”
The Falcons struck first, senior Leigh Wyman draining a three. The Seagulls countered with a two, but then Freeport junior Nina Davenport got her hands on the ball. Davenport, the Falcons’ high scorer, dropped in a two before senior Aubrey Pennell went to the line, tallying one more for Freeport. Old Orchard Beach wouldn’t score again in the first quarter, but Davenport would. She added another two with 20 seconds left, making the score 11-7 in Freeport’s favor.
The first minute of the second quarter was hard-fought, but scoreless. Seagull Daphne Allan went to the line 1:18 in, but missed both shots. Wyman sank a three, but Old Orchard Beach then kicked into a run of six points, four by Abby Dubois and two by Christina Colman. Freeport closed the half with three more, and went to the locker up 18-13.
Despite having built a lead in the first half, the Falcons couldn’t rest on their laurels, and Seavey knew it.
“We scored 18 in the first half, we turned around and scored 33 in the second half, because we got the game going back up and down the floor.” he said. “In the first half, we got into foul trouble, so we had to sit in the half-court, which isn’t typically our style. We want to get out and be a full-court team. Second half we were able to do that.”
The Seagulls descended on the basket to start the third quarter, draining a two 30 seconds in. Falcon senior Jocelyn Davee next stepped to the line, going 1 for 2. Her team snatched the rebound on the missed free throw, turning it into two more. Old Orchard Beach countered with a three, but Wyman cancelled it out by hitting a two, drawing the foul, and making the follow-up shot. Davenport added six more in the next three minutes, and though Colman went 2 for 2 from the line, her team was taking on water faster than they could bail it out. After three, they were down, 32-23.
Freeport opened the fourth with a pair of baskets, one from Davenport and one from Wyman, in the first minute. Allan sank a three for the Seagulls—in fact, she sank three 3-pointers in the last quarter, and Seagull Julia Fregeau sank one, as well, but all those threes weren’t enough to staunch the bleeding. Davenport, Wyman, senior Hanna Chase, junior Ashley Richardson, and freshman Kayla Belanger all tallied points for Freeport, helping them pull away for the win.
Davenport scored 18 in the victory, and Wyman scored 12. On the Seagulls’ side, Colman had 13, while Allan had nine.
Going into the playoffs, Plante has high hopes for his team’s depth.
“That’s the nice part of our team," he said. "We’ve had multiple kids step up. We’re balanced. I can look to one of six kids to step up any night.”
“We’re going into uncharted waters a little bit,” Seavey said of Freeport’s playoff berth. “New coach, new system ...We’ve got to come in and play with confidence, and hopefully winning the last six games, going 10-3 over our last 13 games, carries some weight for us.”