WINTHROP — Youth does not seem to be a detriment to the Winthrop girls basketball team.

With seven freshmen or sophomores on the 11-player roster, the Ramblers are off to an 8-3 start this season. Their latest win — a 48-45 victory over Traip Academy on Friday night at the Poulin Gym — may be one of the team’s biggest wins of the year .

“I’m proud of the girls,” Winthrop head coach John Baehr said. “When you only have 11 kids, (playing young players) is part of it. We’re young, but we have experience. And these are the games that they’re only going to grow in. Traip is a very good team, they’re a senior-heavy team. We need to go through those battles.”

Down 20-17 at halftime, sophomore forward Morgan Fichthorn scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter to give the Ramblers the lead and, eventually, the win, over the Rangers (3-5).

“I was just in a rhythm,” Fichthorn said. “Once I start making some (shots), I start making others consistently. It was just a rhythm that I was getting in.”

Winthrop’s Rhyan Sawlivich, left, dribbles around Traip’s Noelle Denholm during a girls basketball game Friday in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“She can go on runs,” Baehr added. “Her game has come a long way since freshman year. We needed to score in the third quarter, with that 2-3 zone (Traip) ran in, we were very passive (in the first half) and didn’t want to attack. I thought we did a good job at halftime talking about attacking the basket looking to score. I’m proud of her, she’s come a long way.”


Traip fought back in the fourth to tie the game 43-43 with two minutes to play. But turnovers and foul trouble ultimately did in the Rangers. Winthrop sophomore Ella Rice hit both of her foul shots to give the Ramblers a 46-45 lead, and Madeline Wagner added two more foul shots to account for the final 48-45 score.

“I was so nervous in that situation, I was very stressed, but it was good,” Rice said. “I just took deep breaths, kept myself calm and focused on snapping down my wrist (on the shot) and finishing on my toes.”

Wagner had eight points for Winthrop, while Rice added seven.

Emme Hale led Traip with 20 points, while Lilly Stuart added 10.

The starting lineup was an example of Winthrop’s youth movement. Three of the starting five — Fichthorn, Rice and Wagner — are sophomores, joining Bella Littler and Rhyan Sawlivich, the team’s lone seniors.

“Madeline especially has been stepping up (on the court) since breaking her hand in field hockey, she’s really stepped up with foul shots and making shots,” Rice said. “Morgan has been doing really well. Our seniors, Bella and Rhyan, they’ve been stepping up as well, just making shots and doing the little things (correctly).”

It was a needed win for the Ramblers. After opening with a five-game win streak, Winthrop had gone 2-3 in its previous five games, including two straight losses.

Defense has also been a key for Winthrop. Against Traip, the Ramblers were able to force 31 turnovers, 18 in the first half, 13 in the second.

“Our pressure, our defense, causes some turnovers, so that’s good,” Fichthorn said. “We’re playing better half court defense, but also, our half court offense, we’re doing better with transitioning with the ball and making less turnovers.”

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