GARDINER — In the moments before a key Class A North game at Gardiner Area High School, the Lawrence girls basketball team had already taken the court to warm up when it was joined by another team in blue.

The Gardiner players took the floor seconds later, all wearing blue T-shirts over their home whites, with a black No. 5 on the back. The number was a tribute to MaKenzie Nadeau, Lawrence’s junior guard, who’s out for the season after suffering a fracture to her spine in a car accident on Dec. 28.

It was also a reminder: The ties in the high school basketball community go well beyond what takes place on the court.

“It is a great gesture,” Lawrence coach Greg Chesley said. “It’s a sign of respect. ‘Hey, we know you’re hurting. We’re going to do this to honor you and let you know that we respect what you do.'”

Watching from the other side of the court, Lawrence junior guard Hope Bouchard, who was also a passenger in the accident and suffered a broken finger, said she was touched by the tribute.

“It’s really nice seeing local schools around doing something like that for our team,” she said. “It’s really nice to see that kind of thing. It was pretty big.”


Gardiner wasn’t the only team to recognize what Nadeau and the Bulldogs are going through, as Skowhegan did a similar tribute before a game in January. For Chesley, the message has come through that, as strong as the rivalries in Class A North are, the sense of camaraderie among the teams is even stronger.

“The number of coaches that have reached out to me and to MaKenzie and to Hope has really been incredible,” he said. “I really want to hate every opponent, but some of this bigger-than-basketball stuff has showed me that people are good. And people care about us as a basketball community, and we look out for each other.”

For teams like Gardiner, Nadeau — who was on the bench for the game — is more than just a name on the roster of an opponent. Many of the Tigers and Bulldogs grew up playing with and against each other, their paths through the sport intertwined throughout the years leading up to high school.

“We’ve been playing against them since I can remember,” Bouchard said. “I remember in PAL coming up in elementary school, we would play against them. Back then we even knew that we would be big rivals here in high school.”

As one of the players in that program, Nadeau became someone the Tigers saw often.

“People always say Cony-Gardiner, but it’s always been a battle against Lawrence, even in travel basketball in fourth and fifth grade,” Gardiner junior guard Megan Gallagher said. “We’ve just grown up with her, and then we ended up playing with her in AAU and fall leagues. She’s just really good.”


The news about the accident, Gardiner coach Mike Gray said, was a blow for his team.

“They’ve all known each other forever, and when we heard what happened with Hope and MaKenzie, our girls were shaken up,” he said. “You could see that that impacted them, and they talked about wanting to do something, just to make sure they know we care.”

The only question was what.

Gardiner Area High School players warm up in No. 5 T-shirts to honor Lawrence’s MaKenzie Nadeau prior to a Class A North game Tuesday night in Gardiner. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We were trying to think of a way to not make a huge scene,” Gallagher said. “We felt the warmups would be a cute idea, just to recognize her. … When they got in the accident we were in Florida, and a lot of teams were sending flowers and stuff. In one of the articles, she said she’s gotten a lot of flowers, so we were trying to think of something that would be different.”

“Our team does a good job of checking in on her and making sure she’s OK,” Gardiner junior center Lizzy Gruber said. “That’s nothing anyone should ever have to go through, along with her and her teammates and her family. We really wanted to do that for her, just because we have a connection.”

The game that took place afterward looked the way Gardiner-Lawrence games typically do: Close, back and forth, and physical. Tuesday night showed the competitiveness that’s always there between the programs, and it also showed the respect.

This time, that respect came in the form of a “we’ve got your back” to a team that has had to deal with something a lot harder than missed free throws or a mid-season losing streak.

“It was really hard at first,” Bouchard said, “but I think we’re doing pretty good. We’re all really strong, and we have a really nice community to support us.”

On Tuesday night, that couldn’t have been more clear.

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