FAIRFIELD — Sam Mestieri, Molly Moen, Shelby Rudnicki and Bri Soucy all presented flowers to teachers and family members. It’s a typical scene on senior night, but this was a scene they probably hadn’t imagined as freshmen at Lawrence High School. Three years ago, they played for a team that went 0-18. Now, they’re playing for one of the best girls basketball teams in the state.
“It’s crazy,” said Soucy, who had 11 rebounds Tuesday night as the Bulldogs defeated Bangor, 58-35. “We started and we would have empty bleachers at our games. Now, you can just feel the (energy) in here. Everyone starts to believe in us, and it came from just believing in ourselves, honestly. We’re so much closer than we were four years ago.”
Soucy was the last senior introduced during the pregame ceremony and received a standing ovation as she met with several family members. Soucy’s father passed away two years ago and her mother died in December.
“Oh, it means so much, because of everything that’s gone on lately,” she said. “I know that I have the entire school behind my back and that means so much to me. It doesn’t make up for everything, but it definitely helps.”
After that ovation, players on both teams went back to warmups for five minutes. Some of the Lawrence players were wiping away tears during that warmup period.
“Everyone had tears,” said Rudnicki, who scored five points in the third quarter.
Lawrence (15-2) started the four seniors and point guard Dominique Lewis, and went ahead 3-0 with 6:10 left in the first quarter when Soucy drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. The Bulldogs used that starting lineup for the entire first quarter, which ended with Bangor leading, 7-5.
The Rams (5-12), who played in the state final last season, needed the win to have a shot at the Eastern A tournament. But with this loss to Lawrence and Lewiston’s 54-53 win over Mt. Ararat, Bangor is likely out of the playoff picture. The Rams missed several layups in the first half, and were 3 for 26 from the floor at the break, with 14 turnovers.
Lawrence wrapped up in the game in the second quarter, as Nia Irving, Paige Belanger and Jordyn Towers entered the game. Irving played about half the game and finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Belanger added nine points and seven rebounds — many of them from pure hustle — and Lewis scored 10 points, all in the first half.
The Bulldogs began the second quarter on a 14-0 run. After Bangor scored on a bank shot by Emily Gilmore (14 points), Lawrence ran off another 11 points in a row, capped by a long bank-shot three by Lewis at the buzzer. By halftime, the score was 30-9, and Lawrence had outscored Bangor 25-2 in the second quarter. The game was never in doubt after that.
While the Rams were a picture of frustration, the night was like a party for Lawrence. The fans roared when freshman substitute Morgan Boudreau hit a long jumper in the third quarter, and again when Mestieri canned a three in the fourth quarter. It was a long way from just three years ago.
“We had four seniors that (have) been with us from not winning a game to being No. 2 (in Eastern A),” Lawrence coach John Donato said. “We went through a roller coaster ride. I’m just really happy for all my kids. If it wasn’t for everybody working hard, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”