Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone draws the offensive foul from Madison’s Lauria LeBlanc during a game earlier this season in Madison. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The Winthrop girls basketball team may be the top seed in the Class C South tournament. But coach Joe Burnham knows that won’t mean too much once the games get under way at the Augusta Civic Center today.

“There are some really strong teams in Class C,” he said. “We finished with the No. 1 seed, but there’s a 16-2, a 15-3, Old Orchard Beach is a 13-win team. There are some very good teams in there. I don’t think that there’s necessarily an overwhelming favorite like there has been in the past.”

The tournament will see No. 1 Winthrop (17-1) play No. 9 Carrabec (10-9), No. 2 and defending state champion Boothbay (16-2) play No. 7 Sacopee Valley (11-8), No. 3 North Yarmouth Academy (15-3) take on No. 11 Traip Academy (9-10) and No. 5 Old Orchard Beach (13-5) play Cinderella candidate and No. 13 Richmond (8-11).

As Burnham said, the field looks different than in previous years, when Monmouth had a strong lineup that won two straight state championships in 2017 and ’18 and Boothbay rolled through the field in 2019. But he can hope the Ramblers become that team this season. While Aaliyah WilsonFalcone leads the top seeds, Winthrop separates itself with its depth, as players like Natalie Frost, Madison Forgue, Kena Souza and Jillian Schmelzer allow the Ramblers to play fast for four quarters and pull away from teams late.

Winthrop had a similar identity last year as the No. 2 seed, but Burnham said the team is more ready for the tournament stage now than it was then.

“I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now, which is all you can ask as a coach,” he said. “We’ve played some very good teams down the stretch and been tested and come out on top, and I think … we’re in a better mental spot than we were maybe in years past.”

The Ramblers get Carrabec and sophomore center Cheyenne Cahill, who will look to slow down the Winthrop pace with the MVC’s top defense.

Carrabec’s Cheyenne Cahill (11) battles for the loose ball with Oak Hill’s Audrey Dillman (24) and Emily Dillman (1) during a game this season in North Anson. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“They are very deliberate on offense,” Burnham said. “It’s kind of contrasting styles. They’re hoping that we have to play their game and we’re hoping they have to play our game.”

Boothbay seemed poised for a dip in the standings after losing star forward Faith Blethen, but the Seahawks have kept rolling with the holdovers from the championship squad. Chloe Arsenault and Glory Blethen now lead the way, along with senior guard and co-captain Madison Faulkingham.

The Seahawks proved their ability during the regular season with a sweep of Monmouth, and they take an 11-game winning streak into the tournament.

North Yarmouth Academy, which reached the regional final last season, is led by different players from last year’s team, but just as formidable. The Panthers are versatile, with Anna Drummond, Serena Mower, Angels Huntsman and Emily Drummond all scoring in double figures in the preliminary win over Hall-Dale, but Traip beat NYA in one of the two meetings between the teams this season. Addy Hale leads the upset-minded Rangers.

The last matchup will see a team hoping to continue taking the tournament by surprise. Richmond reached Augusta after stunning No. 4 St. Dominic, and the Bobcats are looking to stretch their run even farther.

“I had a pretty good feeling (against St. Dominic), just because we had nothing to lose. We weren’t expected to win. I felt they would probably take us lightly, which they did at the beginning of the game,” Richmond coach Mike Ladner said. “I think the confidence is slowly growing, and against St. Dom’s, it showed. We were able to hang around and stay with them the whole game.”

Richmond has reason to believe it brings more to the tournament than its seed suggests. Key players in Bryannah Shea — who scored the winning points in the preliminary win — Lindsie Irish and Macy Carver have all had to miss games along the way. Those players are back now, and given the work the team’s bench and role players had to do to fill the voids, the Bobcats’ supporting cast has never been stronger.

“Other than three or four games this season, we haven’t really had a true starting five,” Ladner said. “It’s been other players stepping up.”

They’ll have their hands full with the Seagulls, who have already beaten Richmond twice by an average of 24 points this season.

“I know what I’m getting into. (Coach Dean Plante is) going to press us, and then he has a variety of zones he likes to play,” Ladner said. “I’d like to think we’re a different team now. … I anticipate a different outcome.”


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