PORTLAND — A battle between two unbeaten defensive titans was just that Friday night.
The difference? Perhaps some tournament experience, and senior center Morgan Frame, who scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as Waterville pulled away from York 54-42 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Friday night to claim its third consecutive Class B girls basketball state championship.
Frame had just four points at intermission, but shot 8-for-10 in the second half and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter as Waterville outscored York 20-9 to pull away.
“Coach is always saying that these games are about the first run, the longest run, and the last run,” said Frame. “We knew this was going to be a tough game, but fortunately we had the last run.”
These teams had combined to allow barely 60 points a game throughout the season, but Frame and Waterville was able to use its defense to create the game-winning offensive surge at the outset of the fourth quarter.
Leading just 34-33 entering the final period, Waterville forced seven York turnovers during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the catalyst for a 14-3 run that featured 12 points from Frame, the Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist.
Waterville’s lead was just 37-36 when the 6-foot Frame converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play and then hit a jumper from the post.
She then induced York center Nicole Taylor into a player-control foul, her fifth of the game, with 4:55 remaining.
“We knew they were in foul trouble,” said Waterville coach Ted Rioux, “so we wanted to go right at them.”
Teammate Jen Nale followed with a layup before Frame added two inside baskets to give Waterville the cushion it needed — a 48-36 lead — en route to its 66th consecutive victory.
“It’s just so surreal,” said Nale, a junior who has yet to lose a high school basketball game. “It probably doesn’t look like I’m that happy about it, but believe me I am. It’s just so surreal, I can’t put it into words.”
Stephanie Whitten added nine points for 22-0 Waterville, while Jasmine Bishop came off the bench to contribute eight points and six rebounds.
Taylor led 21-1 York with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Stephanie Gallagher added 11 points.
A three-point play by Nale off a long press-breaking pass from Stephanie Whitten with 4.2 seconds left in the opening quarter rallied Waterville to an 11-11 stalemate by the end of the period.
The Purple Panthers had difficulty with York’s fullcourt pressure early, committing five first-quarter turnovers.
York also had a physical match for Frame in Taylor, a sophomore who scored eight of the Wildcats’ first-quarter points.
But York turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the second period, and Paige Gardiner scored twice from the lane to give Waterville a 15-11 edge.
Taylor Frame followed with a baseline jumper after a York timeout to extend Waterville’s run to nine unanswered points before Gallagher hit a jumper for the Wildcats’ first points in four minutes.
York’s pressure continued to cause Waterville problems, with back-to-back baskets by Taylor and Gallagher off Purple Panther turnovers rallying the Wildcats to a 21-21 tie with 45 seconds left in the half.
Taylor then picked up her third foul as Waterville’s Jasmine Bishop grabbed an offensive rebound with 19.8 seconds left, and Bishop made both free throws to give the Purple Panthers a 23-21 edge at the break.
Taylor had 10 points and five rebounds at halftime to lead York, while Bishop’s six points off the bench and Morgan Frame’s four points and nine rebounds led Waterville.
Morgan Frame got loose for six third-quarter points, four after grabbing offensive rebounds, as Waterville moved out to as much as a six-point lead, but York again battled back and took a 33-30 lead on a runner by Emma Clark and a three-point play by Gallagher.
Waterville tied the game on a baseline jumper by Taylor Hart, and gained a 34-33 lead by the end of the period as Bishop made 1 of 2 from the line after grabbing an offensive rebound.