When the girls’ basketball season began, few would have picked Gorham High to be back in the Class AA state championship game.

Yet here the Rams are, playing for their third consecutive Class AA state title, taking on Edward Little at 6 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Arena. Both teams are 14-7.

“It means a lot, especially since no one really expected us to be here,” said forward Michelle Rowe, the lone senior on Gorham’s roster. “People thought our season was going to end a few weeks ago and we’re still playing.”

The Class AA game is just one of the five girls’ state championships to be decided this week, with three schools attempting to retain their titles.

It starts 6 p.m. Thursday with the Class A title game between Greely (19-2) and Hampden Academy (19-2) at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Also Friday, Lake Region (16-5) and Winslow (17-5) will play for the Class B championship at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The weekend wraps up with Class C and D championship games Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. In Class C, defending state champ Monmouth Academy (20-1) will play Houlton (21-0), making its fourth consecutive appearance in a state championship game, at 7 p.m. In Class D, defending state champ Vinalhaven (21-0) plays Southern Aroostook (19-2) at 1.

Gorham’s appearance in the state game is the most surprising.

The Rams returned only two starters and were seeded fifth in Class AA South, but then upset No. 4 Maine Girls’ Academy, No. 1 South Portland and No. 2 Scarborough.

While 6-foot-2 junior center Mackenzie Holmes is the focal point of Gorham’s offense and defense – she averages 21 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.2 blocked shots – she’s received plenty of help in the playoffs. Freshmen guards Adele Nadeau and Olivia Michaud combined for 20 points in the 53-42 semifinal win and 19 in the 47-28 regional final.

“They’ve grown in confidence,” said Coach Laughn Berthiaume. “I think watching last year and the year before, it was more that they were watching somebody else’s team. Maybe early on they felt it was still somebody else’s team. But it’s not. It’s their team, too. They just had to find their spot.”

Gorham defeated Edward Little 48-36 on Jan. 23 as Holmes scored 20 points. Eddies Coach Chris Cifelli said it was obvious then that the Rams were coming on.

“I came away knowing that it is not just a one-person show there,” he said. “They do have some quality kids who can step in. And some of their freshmen aren’t playing like freshmen anymore.”

Jade Perry, Grace Fontaine, Hannah Chaput and Piper Norcross are strong offensively and defensively for the Eddies.

In Class A, the Rangers are looking to use their quickness to beat Hampden, which, said Greely Coach Todd Flaherty, “will be bigger than us at every position.”

The Rangers are led by their dead-eye shooters: junior Anna DeWolfe, sophomore Brooke Obar and freshman Camille Clement.

The three combined for all but four points in Greely’s 66-49 victory against Brunswick in the regional final. Clement led the way with 25.

“We look at all three of them as one piece,” said Flaherty. “We talk a lot about that. If they share the ball, the points will be there. They don’t care who gets them as long as the team gets them.”

But the Rangers also can play defense. They forced 25 turnovers against Brunswick and will have to play just as well to beat the Broncos, who are led by 6-3 junior center Bailey Donovan.

“It’s a tough matchup for us,” said Flaherty. “We have to play tenacious defense and make our shots.”

In Class B, both coaches are expecting a close, defensive game.

“I see a lot of depth, a lot of athletic kids who can dribble, pass and shoot,” Lake Region Coach Paul True said of Winslow. “They’re very well balanced. It’s going to be difficult to hone in on just a couple of kids. And they’re versatile.”

Sound familiar?

“I think (Lake Region) is kind of a mirror image of us,” said Winslow Coach Lindsey Withee. “Disciplined on the defensive end, patient on the offensive end. Not overly tall. Kids grinding it out and working hard.”

Both coaches said defense will be the key.

“We’ve got to keep people in front of us,” said True. “And contest every shot.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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