The Brunswick High School girls basketball team had never made it to a state championship game. Even before the Dragons had played a game, forward Madeline Suhr had a hunch that was about to change.

“I knew we were going to be a hard team to beat,” she said. “Over the summer we started playing games, and we just knew right from the beginning this was going to be a special season.”

Has it ever. Twenty-one games later, the Brunswick storybook is beginning to run thick with chapters, from accolades for coaches and players to a rousing tournament run, capped by a stunning rally and win over Greely in the Class A South championship game.

It’s equaled a spot in the Class A final — the first in school history — and a duel with undefeated Messalonskee for the state title, a fitting conclusion to what’s been a season to remember.

“We have a lot of really talented girls on our team,” junior guard Sabrina Armstrong said. “We’re just a really good group, so it wasn’t a surprise that we were going to do really well this year. We just had to keep our focus.”

Top-level talent has guided the Dragons (18-3) from the opening tip to the doorstep of the Augusta Civic Center for the Class A championship game. Coach Sam Farrell was named the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year for Class A South, and a trio of his players — Suhr, Armstrong and senior forward Brooke Barter — earned KVAC first team All-Conference honors.

“It’s really special. They love playing together, they know where they’re going to be,” Farrell said. “They push each other. They each expect so much of themselves, they don’t want to let their teammates down, which of course makes the other ones work harder.”

The catalyst has been Suhr, who was named the conference’s A South Player of the Year and who has overwhelmed opponents all season by raining 3-pointers, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots.

“She’s a special kid,” Farrell said. “She plays both ways on the floor. … It’s the hard work in the offseason and the hard work in practice. That’s why you get there.”

From the beginning, the championship potential was set — though the Dragons needed to figure out how to fulfill it. Brunswick got a dose of reality in its third game, a 65-46 loss to Greely in which the Dragons learned that they weren’t yet the winners they were hoping to become.

“We were really close at halftime. And in the third quarter we came out and just bombed the game,” Barter said. “We just came out and were deflated, we had no energy. And at the end of that game, our coaches came in and just told us that we needed to play with more passion.”

It’s been a different story since. Brunswick has run the table against its Class A competition, only falling twice to Class AA Edward Little, and the second defeat was by a 44-41 score and was only due to a buzzer-beating shot. Throughout the season, Brunswick stuck to a small-term focus, one that continued into the A South playoffs.

“We didn’t take anybody for granted. We never looked ahead,” Farrell said. “Once we got to the tournament, it was ‘Beat Kennebunk.’ ‘All right, then who are we playing?’ ‘All right, beat York.’ ‘Okay, then who?’ ‘All right, Greely.’ ”

That’s where the run seemed to crash to a halt. Top-seeded Greely, undefeated against A competition, looked to bury the Dragons early, taking a 14-point lead early in the third quarter. The team that had blown them out before was doing it again.

This time, however, a sense of finality kicked in.

“During the regular season, we didn’t really have much to lose because it was just another game in the regular season,” Barter said. “But I think in that regional final, we knew that we didn’t have many games left. If we won that, we only had one left with the team. And I think the seniors especially realized that we really needed to win that game.”

With Suhr leading the way, Brunswick found life. The senior hit all eight shots she took, including five 3-pointers, en route to 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds and help the Dragons close the gap. Barter — who spent two seasons on JV — scored eight fourth-quarter points to contribute to the comeback, and then joined Suhr and Armstrong in hitting free throws down the stretch to complete the stunning upset.

“I think our defense really started to come together, and that turned into offense for us,” Armstrong said. “We kind of just pulled it out. I think we wanted it.”

A special season is now one game away from a perfect ending, and people are taking notice.

“I’m at Hannaford and people are (saying) ‘Good job coach.’ ” Farrell said. “To see the game against Greely, there were tons of little kids there. And that’s great for the future of the program. Those kids might choose to play hockey or do track, but maybe us being successful keeps them with basketball.”

It’ll take beating Messalonskee, which breezed through both its regular season and A North tournament games. But after pulling off one shocker, the Dragons are sure they can accomplish another.

“We beat Greely, and they were the No. 1 seed. Everyone didn’t think we could do it,” Barter said. “I think that we’re just proving this year what Brunswick girls basketball can really do.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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