FAIRFIELD — You can’t see a smile under a facemask, but you could tell Sarah Poli was smiling. Asked about the upcoming basketball tournament for central Maine teams, Poli’s eyes flashed the grin hidden by the mask.

“We are so ready. We’re super-excited. I think we were all shell-shocked. We’re so excited. We’re so happy,” Poli, a Lawrence High School senior, said.

This 12-game sprint of a regular season ended Friday, with Poli and Lawrence taking a 41-33 win over rival Waterville at Folsom Gym. Lawrence is 10-2, Waterville is 9-3, and now they wait for the final Heal point standings to come out so they can prepare for playoff games.

It’s so normal it doesn’t feel normal at all. Not this season that started late because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was slashed by a third, and was played in front of empty gyms. Disappointment has become normal. A tournament, even a regional one, is divine.

“It’s pretty exciting, to wrap up our season today and stand there and tell them there’s games coming up,” Lawrence coach Greg Chesley said. “Not what we expected at the beginning of the year, but the girls are pretty fired up about it. It’s great.”

A tournament in any form is nothing new for Waterville, which played in the Class B North final each of the last two seasons.


“I think we’re getting accustomed to the way things are running. These kids have played a lot of basketball. We’re certainly starting to get our wind at this point. We had some kids who logged some heavy minutes for us tonight. We’re getting our legs under us,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “If we get a little better in the halfcourt, that might help. Lawrence did a good job kind of bogging us down in transition a couple of times.”

Friday’s game between the Bulldogs and Purple Panthers was a showcase for two teams that have the potential to make a deep run in the Class A/B division of the central Maine tournament. Lawrence scored the first seven points of the game, but Waterville rallied to cut the deficit to three points, 17-14, at the half. A 5-0 run to open the second half gave the Panthers a 19-17 lead, but that lasted just 10 seconds. Lawrence reclaimed the lead on a Poli basket with 6:19 left in the third quarter, then held off the Panthers the rest of the way, icing the win going 5 for 6 at the line in the final 1:03 of the game.

“We won pretty ugly our last few games, which isn’t what we set out to do. We were going to be a push (tempo) and score a lot of points kind of team. Teams have been able to play tough defense against us,” Chesley said. “I do feel like we’re ready when we can hold a team like Waterville to 33 points. If we can play that physical and that tough in a tournament-like atmosphere, that’s what it’s going to take.”

Hope Bouchard scored 13 points for the Bulldogs, with Ali Higgins added 11. Poli, who Wednesday was named to the North AA/A/B McDonald’s All-Star team, scored six points while leading the strong defensive effort.

“We have jelled a lot better. We were all fairly new to playing together. We had a bunch of seniors last year. We have a whole bunch of talent we didn’t know we had,” Poli said.

Abby Saucier scored 13 points to lead Waterville, including three 3-pointers. Kiera Gilman scored nine points. Kalli Thompson, who joins Poli on the AA/A/B North all-star team, grabbed rebounds like she was trying to collect them all.

For a while, we wondered if this high school basketball season would ever start. Now, central Maine teams like Waterville and Lawrence can smile because it’s not over.

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