Lawrence’s Deleyni Carr, right, guards Erskine’s Samantha Reynolds during a Class A North quarterfinal game on Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

FAIRFIELD — The Lawrence girls basketball team arrived at the Augusta Civic Center last Friday for a Class A North quarterfinal game, just as it has in each of the last eight Februarys. Players and coaches shuffled through a back entrance to check in prior to tip-off, the Bulldogs treating the entire process as a routine part of the annual trip to the tournament.

Except for one of them. There was nothing routine about it for Deleyni Carr.

“We walked in to get our tags, and I saw Deleyni stop and look and say, ‘Wow. There’s a lot of people here,’” said Lawrence coach Greg Chesley, whose team meets No. 1 Hampden in a regional semifinal for a third straight season at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday. “That hit me. I wasn’t thinking. I was thinking she’d been through this before, but she hasn’t with that kind of an atmosphere.

“It was definitely different for her.”

Carr, a Fairfield native, is no stranger to the Civic Center or tournament basketball.

A multi-year starter previously at Temple Academy in Waterville, the Lawrence senior was there in 2016 when the Bereans made the school’s first-ever trip to the postseason as a varsity program. She was there, too, in 2018 and 2019 when Temple advanced as far as the Class D South semifinals.

But those early-round Class D tournament games are often played during sleepy morning sessions, in front of crowds numbering in the hundreds and not the thousands. Class A tournament games typically draw the biggest gatherings of the week in prime time spots.

Erskine’s Jordan Linscott, left, is guarded by Lawrence’s Deleyni Carr during a Class A North quarterfinal game last Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

When Carr peeked out of the locker room at the bustling Civic Center on Friday night before pre-game warmups, she admitted the enormity of the stage hit her.

“I was really nervous,” Carr said. “I looked out and there were a lot of people, and I was like, ‘Wow. This is not what I’m used to.’ I feel like I adjusted well. I think I’ve always played well at the Civic Center — the energy just gets me going.

“The basketball is a lot different (in Class A). It’s a lot faster, there’s a lot more people that show up. The intensity is just a lot higher. It was a good change for me.”

Carr’s decision to attend Lawrence for her senior year, she says, is as much about education as it is athletics.

On the basketball side, she was familiar previously with Lawrence seniors Megan Curtis and Savannah Weston — having competed with them on the AAU basketball landscape when she was younger. They were not close friends before the current basketball season, but that’s changed now.

“She’s a really good asset to the team,” Weston said. “Our team’s pretty close-knit. We have a lot of new freshmen and two new seniors, too, so it’s pretty easy. You just try to invite (new players) to everything and always try to include them. When you do that, it starts to get normal as time goes on.”

Fellow guard Curtis said the relationship with Carr — on and off the court — has been a welcomed one.

“She can shoot, she can handle the ball, she’s a very good defender,” Curtis said. “I felt like right from the beginning she fit in with us. She’s very outgoing.”

“It was hard adjusting to a new team, new girls, meeting everyone and trying to fit in,” Carr said. “I feel like I fit in a lot better now. Everyone made me feel really welcome.”

Chesley admits he knew little of Carr before she stepped on the court this summer to begin practicing and playing in games with the Bulldogs.

Lawrence’s Deleyni Carr, left, Erskine’s Jordan Linscott and Lawrence’s Sarah Poli, right, fight for rebound during a Class A North quarterfinal game last Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Carr did not start early in the season, but by the halfway point of the winter she’d become a regular in the team’s starting five. She’s one of two new starters for Lawrence this year, a significant overhaul for a team that had featured Curtis, Weston and Sarah Poli for three years already.

“The challenge for the year has been how to bring it all together. Last year, we had a team that was all returning,” Chesley said. “Now we throw in Hope (Bouchard), who’s a freshman, and Deleyni. … It’s been tough. I think we’ve kind of got the roles figured out now. To have someone like Deleyni step in, that’s been a nice transition.”

It’s been more than a year since Hampden lost to a Class A North team, dating to a January 2019 shellacking at the hands of Skowhegan. The Broncos’ only loss this season was to Class AA Bangor, and they’ve earned every bit of the No. 1 seed as the two-time defending regional champion.

A win Wednesday over the Broncos — which has bounced Lawrence from the tournament three years running now, including in the quarterfinals in 2017 — would be a big win for the program.

And for Carr.

“I’m really excited. I’m excited to play. I think we have a really good chance.”

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