AUGUSTA — Five years ago, Winthrop dropped varsity girls basketball to give the program a chance to regroup and rebuild. Now the Ramblers are one win away from going deeper in the tournament than they have in 30 years. 

On Thursday, top-seeded Winthrop pulled away in the second half and earned its first trip to the regional final since 2007 with a 62-36 win over No. 5 Old Orchard Beach at Augusta Civic Center. 

Kena Souza led all scorers with 19 points and had 14 rebounds to lead the Ramblers (18-2), who will face conference rival Boothbay, the second seed, in Saturday’s Class C South final at 6 p.m. in hopes of making their first state championship game since 1990. 

We’re really excited, we’ve never made it this far. We’re really excited to play Boothbay for the fourth time,” Souza said. 

Aaliyah WilsonFalcone added 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals, while Sage Fortin chipped in 13 points for Winthrop. Elise MacNair led the Seagulls (15-6) with 10 points.

OOB’s zone defense held Winthrop scoreless for nearly five minutes to start the game but only carved out a 4-0 lead by the time WilsonFalcone got the Ramblers on the board with 3:05 remaining in the quarter. She added a 3-pointer during an 8-0 run that put the Ramblers in front for good. 

“That zone that they have, we haven’t faced that a ton this year,” Winthrop coach Joe Burnham said. “We prepped a lot for it, but us learning it in 15 minutes and then practicing against it is a little different. I thought we were able to get some good looks out of it, but really we were able to get our defense to turn into offense tonight.” 

“Usually when we secure a rebound, it gets our transition going really well,” Souza said. “We’re a really good transitioning team, so I think rebounding was really our savior tonight.” 

Leading 13-8 at the end of the first, Winthrop gradually added to its cushion, mostly through better free-throw shooting. The Ramblers were 8-for-12 from the charity stripe in the first half while the Seagulls were 4-for-12. 

The Ramblers also nullified OOB’s zone by doing what they do best, getting out in transition. With MacNair hampered by foul trouble, Winthrop led by as much as 13 after Jillian Schmelzer’s coast-to-coast layup. A 3-pointer by Summer St. Louis helped Old Orchard Beach cut the deficit to 31-21 at halftime. 

MacNair, a freshman, led the Seagulls to the semifinals with 19 points in their 45-24 quarterfinal win over No. 13 Richmond, but had to contend with WilsonFalcone’s hard-nosed defense for most of Thursday. 

“We started our best defender on her,” Burnham said, “and we knew (junior guard) Shani Plante (nine points) can certainly fill it up no matter who you put out there. But if you took away their secondary option, we know that it’s possible for a freshman to struggle in this building, so we wanted to throw some hard defense at her.” 

Fortin, Souza and Madison Forgue (six points) started heating up from the perimeter in the second half. A put-back by Lydia Rice and a 3-pointer by Forgue highlighted a 12-3 Rambler run that essentially put the game away in the third quarter. 

“We found that driving the paint and kicking it out to our shooters really helped us tonight,” Souza said. “It took a little while to get the rhythm going.” 

 

This story will be updated.

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