FARMINGDALE — O.J. Jaramillo flipped through the photos on his phone. Finally, he found the one he was searching for.

“2014,” the first-year Hall-Dale girls basketball coach said during practice Wednesday at Penny Gym. “That’s one of our first travel teams.”

He pointed at some of the fresh-faced third- and fourth-graders — KK Wills, Averi Baker, Kelsey Cormier, Amanda Trepanier — basketball neophytes then, grizzled high school veterans now.

“It’s crazy,” Jaramillo added.

Jaramillo could add another team photo to his album come Saturday night, should the top-seeded and undefeated Bulldogs (21-0) defeat Stearns in the Class C final and capture their first state championship since 2011. Many of the faces in that long-ago photo will be on the floor as Hall-Dale attempts to complete a journey that began nearly a decade ago.

After winning it all in ’11 and losing the ’12 title by one point, Hall-Dale was eliminated in the first round of the Class C tourney four straight years. Clearly, something needed to be done.


Jaramillo, a Hall-Dale alum, first got involved in the program when he met Ryan Madore — now a Bulldogs assistant — around 2014 at a rec tryout Jaramillo attended with Wills, his daughter and now a Hall-Dale senior guard. Madore asked Jaramillo to help out, and the duo spent years molding the future Bulldogs into a unit through travel and AAU teams and countless camps at Colby College and elsewhere. They often played against students a year older and from larger school districts — Messalonskee, Gardiner, Lawrence, Cony.

“We took some lumps, we paid our dues,”said Jaramillo, who took over the Hall-Dale varsity this season after Jarod Richmond stepped down. “By the eighth grade, it was really clicking. We were winning middle school, travel and AAU championships. Being able to compete in the eighth-grade setting against Class A schools, we felt comfortable getting into high school and facing Class C competition; we’d be pretty strong and make some good runs.”

Players such as Baker, now a senior guard, showed some mettle at a young age, hustling and diving for loose balls as a youngster and doing the same now. “You can see the heart and the hustle and the drive at young age,” Jaramillo said, “it was just getting the fundamentals and experience in there.”

The players got to know each other off the court, too, which helped them as a team on it.

“I think spending so much time off the court and going to team movie nights or team dinners,” Baker, a senior guard, said, “has helped us transfer stuff on the court, because we have even better chemistry and we work a lot better now.”  

Hall-Dale girls basketball player Averi Baker chases the ball during practice Wednesday in Farmingdale. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

That spirit of togetherness continued Monday, when Hall-Dale’s players and coaches packed into several vehicles after practice and journeyed to Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center — “We went to Chick-fil-A, and then we watched (the game) together,” Wills quipped — to watch top-seeded Stearns (16-3) edge Penobscot Valley 32-30 in the C North final.


Minuteman guard Alisyn Alley, who scored a team-high 13 points Monday, was named  Penobscot Valley Conference Class C player of the year and is one of four 1,000 point-scoring sisters. She joins Mikayla Anderson, who netted 24 in a 61-27 quarterfinal win over Sumner, to form a dynamic backcourt. For Wednesday’s practice, Jaramillo brought in some members of the Hall-Dale boys team to mimic Stearns’ style and act as a scout team of sorts.

“Ali can play,” Jaramillo said. “The amazing thing is, everyone talks about her offense, but I was much more impressed with her defense. She disrupts everything and she’s super quick. They’re a really, really solid basketball team.”

Hall-Dale’s backcourt isn’t exactly shabby, with the likes of Wills, Baker, sophomore Hayden Madore and Trepanier, the fiery junior who scored 19 points in Saturday’s 63-56 win over North Yarmouth Academy for the C South title. The Bulldogs rallied from deficits of 18 points in the second quarter and 12 at the half.

Hall-Dale girls basketball players shoot around during practice Wednesday. The Bulldogs will play Stearns in the Class C title game Saturday night at 7 at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We hadn’t been in that position all year,” Wills, who scored 13 against NYA, said. “Especially in a playoff game, that could be your last chance. We just kinda got mad and said, ‘OK, that’s not us.’”

Cormier, Lily Platt and Iris Ireland are among Hall-Dale’s frontcourt threats.

During last winter’s COVID-19 disrupted season, Hall-Dale captured the unofficial Class C/D central Maine basketball tournament crown. A state title on Saturday, however, will count for all time.

“We’ve been working and practicing to achieve big things and get a state title,” Baker said. “We’ve been working on that since elementary school. It’s always been like …” she trailed off.

“Our dream,” Wills finished. 

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