The six seniors on the Greenville High School basketball team will be appearing in their fourth Class D state championship game Saturday.
It will be their second consecutive basketball state game appearance, and the Class D South champs are again facing Class D North and defending two-time state champion Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook in a 1:05 p.m. contest at the Augusta Civic Center.
Southern Aroostook topped Greenville 55-30 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor in last year’s final.
The six seniors also have played in two state championship softball games, beating Penobscot Valley of Howland 4-3 in 2018 before PVHS avenged that loss 11-6 last spring.
And the Lakers will be a favorite to return to the state softball game again this spring.
Senior center and scoring leader Halle Pelletier said playing in the state basketball final last year helped the team a lot.
“We’re hungrier this year. We don’t want to lose again. We remember how it felt,” Pelletier said. “And now we’re all seniors, so there is even more motivation.”
Senior guard Morgan Noyes expects she and her teammates to be calmer and more composed this time around.
The loss forced the players to re-evaluate their summer priorities.
“We had played softball and soccer in the summer but didn’t put any extra work into basketball. But if you want to get to the next level, you need to put more time [into basketball],” Pelletier said.
“[Summer] basketball had been put on the back burner for quite a few years,” she said.
Head coach Maren Mason believes the summer commitment to basketball has paid dividends with Pelletier leading the way.
“Since losing the state game, Halle began hitting the gym,” Mason said. “She has pushed herself and become so much stronger. She knew she was going to have to be more physical this year because she had a big target on her back.”
The 5-foot-11 Pelletier, who is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds, will need that strength to combat dominant Southern Aroostook center Kacy Daggett and talented forward-guard Makaelyn Porter.
This season, her 5-11 twin sister Aleya is the first player off the bench. Aleya Pelletier, who skied her first three winters but did both this season, has contributed 8-9 rebounds and a strong defensive presence.
“And she has been really good at getting the ball to Halle,” Mason said.
The Lakers have a versatile trio of senior guards in Tiegan Murray, Jessica Pomerleau and Noyes, all of whom are capable of scoring in double digits. Pomerleau is an all-purpose guard, Noyes defends the opposing team’s best player and Murray leads the team in 3-pointers and is a valuable rebounder at 5-foot-2.
“[Murray] plays like she’s 6-foot-2,” Mason said.
Senior guard-forward Bianca Breton is another player who has multiple attributes.
Mason, who is in her third season as the head coach, has a special place in her heart for the seniors.
“I’ve coached them since sixth grade,” Mason said. “What I love most about them is their love of the game. They will do anything they can to be successful.”
The Lakers have benefited from a challenging schedule that includes two games with 2019 Class C North champ Penobscot Valley of Howland, a quarterfinalist this season, along with Class C semifinalist Dexter and two-time Class D North finalist Deer Isle-Stonington.
They had six games that were decided by eight points or fewer.
“A lot of our games have gone down to the wire, so we’re used to high-pressure situations,” Halle Pelletier said.
The players say Greenville is a better team this season because of its improved shooting, fewer turnovers and better defensive discipline. The Lakers use a variety of zones.
They know Southern Aroostook is a formidable opponent, but they are comfortable playing at the Augusta Civic Center, where the Class D South tournament is held.
“We are going to have to play the game at our pace and not their faster pace,” Halle Pelletier said. “We have to limit their transition game by getting back on defense, and we have to make every possession count.”
“We have to keep them away from the basket and put good ball pressure on their shooting guards,” Mason said. “We have to shut down one of their big three [Daggett, Porter and freshman guard Maddie Russell] and hope the other two have off nights.”
Mason hopes her team can get healthy by Saturday, since eight of her nine players have been ill within the past 10 days, which has hindered their practice schedule.