AUGUSTA — Paige Belanger was two years from being born when Cindy Blodgett’s historic run at Lawrence High School ended in 1994 with a fourth state title in four years.

But like hundreds of other girls of her generation growing up in Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield, Belanger grew up hearing the Blodgett legend and the teams that filled Lawrence’s trophy case while she was there.

Belanger, a senior forward, said she hasn’t tired of comparisons between those teams of two decades ago and this, the first Lawrence team to win a regional title since them.

“It’s not something that I grew up watching, but growing up knowing about it, it was definitely something that, like, our goal was to do what they did,” Belanger said. “It’s not really anything that I don’t like hearing. I like to hear about that success coming from Lawrence. It’s nice knowing that we’re making that happen, too.”

Lawrence coach John Donato said the team received a good-luck note from Bruce Cooper, who coached the Bulldogs to those state championships, before Saturday’s regional final.

Lawrence’s current seniors, including Belanger, KVAC Player of the Year Nia Irving, forward Abby Weigang and guard Jordyn Towers, had a lot longer climb to the top than those teams.

“The year before I was a freshman, they only won one game. My freshman year, we only won two games,” Belanger said. “I’ve been looking back at all the work we did, in the summer, in the postseason, in the preseason, all year round working together, and this is just the biggest accomplishment for us.”

The Bulldogs had to do a lot of their hard work this past summer outside the familiar confines of Folsom Gymnasium.

“We did this without having a gym to play in the summer,” Donato said. “We had to find places to play because our school was doing their floor, so we had to go to all different gyms in our area. (The players) all stuck with me. They all wanted it and they all put the time in.”

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Winthrop’s seniors helped coach Todd MacArthur build the Ramblers into Western C contenders again, so he was understandably emotional after what turned out to be their final game together, Winthrop’s semifinal loss to Maranacook on Friday night.

“I’m just thankful,” he said. “They’re a special group that will be a part of my thoughts and my memories. I hope in five years, 10 years, 15 years, that I still have this relationship with them.”

The senior class, which includes Ben Allen, Dakota Carter, Taylor Morang and Matt Sekerak, as well as reserves Joseph Fay, Jacob Rioux and Nick Schlosser, was the nucleus of a dramatic program reversal.

The varsity was 4-32 in its first two years, 30-9 in its last two, including appearances in the Western C quarterfinals and semifinals the last two years.

MacArthur said he appreciated the work the group put into helping him turn the program around.

“They’ve given me everything they could in terms of basketball, but we’re friends for life,” he said. “It’s pretty special when, as a coach, you’re going to have a group of friends down the road like these guys. Maybe I’ll get invited to their wedding.”


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