The last three seasons have not exactly been paradise for the Greenville girls’ basketball program.
Prior to this winter, the Lakers had compiled a 16-40 record and hadn’t qualified for tournament play in five years, when the team played in Eastern Maine Class D.
But the fortunes have changed for coach John Jardine’s club this winter, as Greenville lost just two-regular season games, earned the No. 3 seed in Western D and captured the regional crown with a 46-29 victory over fourth-ranked Rangeley in Saturday’s championship game.
Jardine’s Lakers will tangle with Eastern Maine champion Fort Fairfield in Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. state final at the Augusta Civic Center.
If that’s not enough, it has been 25 years since the Lakers have played for a state championship, when they beat Buckfield 45-39 in 1985.
“They’re loving this right now, they’re not used to this,” said Jardine.
Offensively, the Lakers were spurred during tournament play by Gretel Breton and Saige Weeks, with Breton turning in a strong second-half performance in the regional final.
She scored 16 of her 18 points and grabbed five of her seven rebounds in the final 16 minutes of that contest, despite playing with four fouls the entire fourth quarter.
But when something like foul trouble happens, Jardine has other offensive weapons such as Weeks, McKenna Peat and Miranda Drinkwater. Weeks averaged more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game during the regular season.
“That’s what we did all year, run an eight- or nine-person rotation,” Jardine said. “That’s what the main thing is, we get in foul trouble we got people that can go in.”
Foul trouble is something the Lakers can ill-afford against Fort Fairfield, whose top offensive weapon, Amanda Hotham, set Eastern Maine tournament records for most free throws made in a game and during the course of the week.
“That’s a big thing there, putting someone on her so can we stay out of foul trouble,” Jardine said. “We’ve been in foul trouble most of the tournament, we’ve definitely got to stay out of foul trouble and rebound. That’s our game, rebounding and go.”
Jardine also feels playing at the Augusta Civic Center will be valuable for his team.
“I was hoping there would be an advantage for us playing three games in Augusta,” he said. “We might be a little more comfortable in the beginning, we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
The Lakers also will need to crank up their fast-break game on offense and apply pressure on the ball defensively to prevent Hotham from attacking the rim and drawing contact, which is one of her specialties.
“That’s what the game plan is for her, not to let her score 15 points from the foul line,” Jardine said “We’d like to keep her under 10 from the line.”
Another X-factor could be that this is a motivated group of athletes that has played in two straight Class D state soccer championship games only to come out on the losing end to Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.