PORTLAND, Maine — With 85 starts in 86 high school games over four years — including two previous state-champion game appearances — Brianna Jordan may be the most experienced high school basketball player in Maine.
The senior forward from Gray-New Gloucester displayed that experience when it mattered most Saturday afternoon as the Patriots defeated Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor 43-30 to capture the Class B state championship at the Cross Insurance Arena.
MDI had rallied within 34-30 on two Maddy Candage free throws with 3:53 left in the game before GNG scored the game’s final nine points.
Jordan, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, played a pivotal role in that game-clinching effort with four straight free throws after a pair of offensive rebounds and a midcourt steal to set up a basket by Jordan Grant to stretch the Patriots’ lead to 40-30 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
“We just tried not to panic, to keep composed and keep our emotions inside,” said Jordan, whose only non-start in her high school career was on Senior Night of her freshman season. “We all care about each other and trust each other a lot, and I think that trust helped us stay calm and eventually pull it out.”
For GNG coach Mike Andreasen, the source of his team’s late-game leadership came as no surprise.
“We’ve gone to the state final three times in her four years, and her statistics haven’t always been gaudy,” he said. “But every game she has to play the other team’s best player, she has to bring the ball up the court, she has to rebound.
“Again today she found a way to put her stamp on the game, her foul shots and that steal were her identifying marks.”
Jordan finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for 20-2 Gray-New Gloucester, and Grant added 10 points and seven boards.
Julia Watras led 19-3 MDI with nine points, but scored just two after the Trojans were within 23-18 at intermission. Hannah Chamberlain added seven points and Candage had six.
“We needed to cut down on our turnovers,” said Trojans coach Brent Barker, whose team fell victim to 19 turnovers and was outrebounded 37-24 by the taller Patriots. “We had some bad turnovers that they capitalized on a few times.
“They played really good defense and took us out of some stuff we like to do, and then we got going in a hurry and that’s what they wanted us to do.”
MDI delivered a solid defensive effort of its own, limiting Gray-New Gloucester to 28 percent (15 of 54) shooting from the field, but the Trojans shot just 30 percent (11 of 37) on 17 fewer attempts.
“The defense was the difference in the game because it looked like neither offense was doing a lot,” said Andreasen. “It seemed like the best offense for both teams today was almost offense by accident, it wasn’t really the set plays that got it done.”
The Patriots used full-court pressure and their collective defensive length to spur a 10-2 run to close out the first quarter with a 16-8 lead.
But MDI limited the Patriots to just seven points during the second quarter and hung within five points at the break despite nine early turnovers.
Watras and Olivia Gray each hit a 3-pointer to help rally the Trojans early in the period, and Chamberlain added a jumper off an offensive rebound by Watras and a fast-break layup off a pass from Rachelle Swanson while Gray-New Gloucester made just 3 of its 12 field-goal attempts in the period.
GNG built its lead to as much as 32-22 on a layup by Jordan to open the fourth quarter, but MDI rallied back within 34-30 with an 8-2 run that featured a baseline drive by Chamberlain, a scoop shot by Alexis Carlito and four Candage free throws.