AUGUSTA — After a loss to Gardiner on senior night earlier this month, Hope Bouchard said there was a feeling of excitement.

No, the senior on the Lawrence girls basketball team wasn’t thrilled to have lost her last game in her home gymnasium. Yet Bouchard knew the Bulldogs would have another shot at the Tigers, something they got Friday night — and took advantage of with a 61-54 regional championship game victory.

“We knew we weren’t done,” Bouchard said of the mood in the Lawrence locker room following that Feb. 7 loss to Gardiner. “We knew we had a chance to come back and see them again at the regional final. We didn’t want that final senior game to define our team.”

It won’t, certainly not after Lawrence got revenge on the Tigers in a game it led from wire to wire in front of a near-capacity crowd of roughly 5,000. The win sent the Bulldogs to the Class A state championship against Class A South champion and No. 1 seed Brunswick (19-2) at 7 p.m. on March 3, back in Augusta.

No. 2 Lawrence (18-3) dominated from the start with Bouchard powering the Bulldogs early. Fueling her team with two 3-pointers and an and-one, Bouchard got Lawrence out in front 11-2 inside of three minutes as the Bulldogs took a 19-12 lead to the second quarter.

Lawrence stayed out in front in the second as top-ranked Gardiner (20-1) failed to generate any sort of offensive flow. Limiting Lizzy Gruber’s chances near the rim and getting a coast-to-coast layup from Ali Higgins at the horn, the Bulldogs had all the momentum as they led 33-20 at the break.


“We did get out to a very good start, so we wanted to make sure we kept up our lead and didn’t get too flustered,” Bouchard said. “We kept the pace up and kept running, but we also made sure we stayed calmed down and did what we could to stay on top of it.”

Continuing their steady play, the Bulldogs maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third quarter and early into the fourth. Yet Gardiner wasn’t quite out of it just yet, preventing Lawrence from stretching the lead past 14 and pulling within eight with 4:22 to go on a Savannah Brown 3-pointer.

For as much effort as Gardiner showed in the fightback, though, the Tigers could never pull closer than six points. Bouchard, who was 9 of 10 from the line in the fourth quarter, hit clutch free throw after clutch free throw as the Bulldogs made the third time a charm to end Gardiner’s perfect season.

Bouchard, who played all 32 minutes had team-highs of 26 points and eight rebounds for Lawrence along with four assists. The Bulldogs also got 15 points, four rebounds and three steals from Bri Poulin as well as nine points and seven rebounds from Ali Higgins.

Poulin, normally a dominant post player, certainly spent some time down low for Lawrence in this contest. But the senior forward also drifted out toward the perimeter, where she hit some long mid-range jump shots and even a 3-pointer in a well-rounded offensive showing.

“We were definitely keeping that one in the back pocket,” Lawrence head coach Greg Chesley said of Poulin’s shooting prowess. “She’s a good 3-point shooter. … This week, we’ve been telling her, ‘Hey, if Gruber sags off you, go ahead and nail that,’ and she did.’”


Gruber, a senior, had 26 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in her final game for Gardiner. The Tigers also got 11 points and three rebounds from McKenna Johnson and nine points from Savannah Brown. Those players also appeared in their final game for Gardiner as seniors.

The loss is one that will sting for Gardiner, which was perfect up until this point and had gotten the best of Lawrence in the prior encounters this season. The Tigers’ senior class will graduate having gone 67-11, including a Central Maine Class A/B title in 2021 and an undefeated record at home.

“This group is special; I love this group of kids so much,” said Gardiner head coach Mike Gray. “This group of seniors, I just feel like they’ve been around forever. Our underclassmen are strong, and we have good players and are still going to be a really competitive team, but this is a special group that had it come to an end.”

For Lawrence’s seniors, it felt like a hurdle finally cleared after the previous struggles against Gardiner — and the team was sure to soak it in. After a joyous celebration, the Bulldogs left for the buses with Liz Crommett wearing one of the nylon nets that had been cut down. Higgins had the other, though she later adorned Bouchard with it during a post-game interview.

Then, there was a scene with one senior who played little during Lawrence’s tournament run as MaKenzie Nadeau, who missed all of last season following a car accident, hugged her father, Tom. Minutes away from coaching in his own regional final as head coach of the Skowhegan boys, Tom Nadeau couldn’t help but share in the emotional moment with his daughter.

“MaKenzie didn’t have an opportunity to play much today, and I turn around, and she’s in tears of joy over what we just did,” Chesley said. “She’s a big part of what we did. She’s been healthy in practice, and that five that we practice is as good as anyone else’s starting five in the state of Maine. … She’s a big part of that.”

Even amidst the joy, though, Bouchard was quick to point out that Lawrence’s job isn’t finished. There’s still the state championship game to go, and the Bulldogs would love nothing more than to turn a gold plaque into the Gold Ball at the same time and place next week.

“This is as good as it gets, but we’re not done,” Bouchard said. “We all know that, and we’re excited to play again next weekend, but right now, we’re ready to celebrate.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.