Jan. 22—POLAND — Scrappy defenses turned a Western Maine Conference girls basketball game into a push-and-shove contest at Poland Regional High School.
Gray-New Gloucester (8-3) was forced to claw its way to a 48-37 rivalry victory over a relentless Poland squad on Friday.
Patriots freshman forward Isabelle Morelli led all scorers with 19 points, including three 3-pointers and 6-for-7 shooting from the free-throw line. Amber Fortin helped out with 10 points.
"I thought it was a really good team effort by everyone," Morelli said. "We just came off of a hard loss last night (to Brunswick), and I think everyone on our team started off slow, but we became really aggressive. Poland is a good team so I am glad we pulled through the win."
Poland's Gabbi Bolduc scored 12 points and went 6-for-8 at the foul line, and teammate Allie Ferland finished with 10 points.
Poland started to creep up on Gray-New Gloucester in the fourth quarter, moving to within five points of the Patriots with 3:14 left in the game, before the Patriots closed out the victory.
Gray-NG built most of its lead in the third period, taking a patient approach to breaking Poland's tight zone defense and then not being too quick to throw up 3-pointers and trying to work the ball inside the key, culminating in several trips to the foul line.
On defense, the Patriots went man-to-man and began pressing. By the end of the third, their three-point halftime lead grew to 36-25.
"You know what is weird is we are not a fantastic offensive team so we've got to get our points through other things, and when we put the press on in the first half — we were down 17-10 — and we outscored them 12-2 the rest of the half," Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen said. "When we took the press off, we weren't getting the same offensive looks because we were getting offense out of our defense. Sometimes what happens is we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot.
"The press saved us. I think we won the game because of the press. Tonight the game flow wasn't that good. It seemed to be in Poland's favor and they were comfortable. They were shooting the ball well and (we) just wanted to take them out of their rhythm a little bit and make it harder on them."
Both teams' scrappy defenses controlled the opening quarter. Poland capitalized on Gray-NG's cold shooing, but the Patriots still took a 7-6 lead into the second period.
Gray-NG found its shooting late in the second, but not before the Knights went on an impressive 17-10 run fueled by Ferland's five quick points on a 3-pointer and an outside shot.
The Patriots bounced back and overtook the Knights, thanks to 3-pointers by junior forward Isabelle Ross and Morelli, and Gray-NG ended the half holding a 22-19 lead.
"I think (we) played great," Poland coach Jake Webb said. "They played their hearts out. They did everything they could. Gray is a really good team. I have to tip my hat to (the Patriots). The played really well. They accepted the pressure and ran with it.
"I think we have stepped up. The last two week we've come a long way as a team and they are just getting better and better everyday."