FAIRFIELD — Although the mileage may vary, just about every basketball program can point to a period of a decade or a few years as its golden era or heyday. Few, though, have reached the heights of the Lawrence girls.

First, there were the days of Cindy Blodgett, a player whose dominance of the game steered the Bulldogs to four straight Gold Balls in the early 1990s. Then, there was the era of Nia Irving, who guided Lawrence to another Gold Ball as well as a pair of regional titles.

“(Playing for this team) is something you dream about when you’re little,” Said Lawrence senior Ali Higgins. “Basketball is a big part of Lawrence history, and to be a part of that history and be so close to putting a Gold Ball in that trophy case, it feels amazing.”

By winning a Northern Maine title, this Lawrence team (18-3) has already earned a special place in the history of a program that has many of them. It’s an achievement led by a graduating group that’s years in the making and is on the verge of a dream ending to its time together.

Lawrence’s six seniors will play together one final time in the Class A state championship game against Brunswick (19-2) at 6:05 p.m. Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. Win or lose, it’s the end of the line for Hope Bouchard, Elizabeth Crommett, Alisabeth Dumont, Ali Higgins, MaKenzie Nadeau and Bri Poulin.

It’s hard, especially in a sport such as basketball, for every player on a team to make a physical impact on the floor every night. After all, there’s only enough room to put five players on the floor, and it’s important that the ones out there are cohesive and ready for the moment.


All six Lawrence seniors are. Bouchard is the floor general and playmaker; Dumont and Higgins can hit 3-pointers in bunches; Crommett plays suffocating defense; Poulin dominates the post; Nadeau, who would be a starter on just about any other team in the state, can provide a spark off the bench.

“On one hand, it’s a group that makes you feel great going into a state championship because their skills and leadership make you think, ‘Hey, we’ve got a pretty good shot,’” said Lawrence head coach Greg Chesley. “On the other hand, going into the gym this summer and next year and not seeing those six faces is going to be a letdown.”

Chesley first became acquainted with what would become Lawrence’s 2023 class during his tenure with PAL, the local youth sports program for Lawrence’s feeder towns of Fairfield, Clinton, Benton and Albion. He saw them through the program until they concluded sixth grade, at which point he accepted the varsity job at Lawrence.

Lawrence’s Alisabeth Dumont, front, tries to deflect a shot from Cony’s Abby Morrill during a Class A North girls basketball semifinal on Feb. 22 at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The more Chesley watched the six players develop, the more he realized the group was capable of being a standout one. He was so impressed, in fact, that he included them to join the varsity team’s summer program as seventh-graders ahead of his first season as varsity coach.

“We’ve known for quite some time that they had the potential to be very special,” said Chesley, who took over for Donato following the 2016-17 season. “We knew it was a special group that could do just about anything if they had to make the dedication to get better and grow individually, and they did.”

It started in 2019-20 when, as freshmen, the six players earned minutes here and there on a Lawrence team that went 12-8. The following season, they stepped up their roles and went 12-3 to finish as Central Maine Class A/B runners-up in a season altered by COVID-19.


The growth continued last year with a 17-4 season in which Lawrence fell to eventual state champion Skowhegan in the Northern Maine title game. Finally, the Bulldogs claimed a championship of their own last Friday with a 61-54 win over Gardiner in which the seniors scored 55 of the 61 points.

The six players had been looking forward to that moment for years — not just the feeling of winning a title but that of doing so against Gardiner. A showdown with the Tigers, who had denied Lawrence that 2021 Central Maine crown and beaten them twice this season, was something Bouchard and Crommett said had long been written in the stars.

“Beating them had just been a huge goal for a long time,” Crommett said. “I think we all knew years ahead that, our senior year, it was going to be us and Gardiner. Last summer, I was talking to Lizzy (Gruber), and I said, ‘It’s going to come down to us; that’s what’s going to happen.’”

It did happen, and by emerging victorious, Lawrence got to cut down the nets in front of a raucous Augusta Civic Center crowd. Standing atop the ladders and twirling the nylon in front of countless cheering Bulldogs fans was an experience that, in the words of all six seniors, was “surreal.”

It came despite a number of challenges, from a pandemic season that could have stunted their growth during a sophomore year that was key to their development to a car accident that sidelined Nadeau all of last year and Bouchard for seven games. Yet with each stumbling block, Lawrence always seemed to emerge stronger than before.

“We have a great bond, and I think that’s because we’re not just basketball players; we’re basically like sisters,” Nadeau said. “We’re always leaning on each other, whether that’s on the court or off the court. That goes for all 14 of us on this team, not just the six seniors.”

It is just the seniors, though, who will be donning the Lawrence colors for the last time Friday regardless of the result. They’ve left, they hope, a framework that can keep a Lawrence program with numerous underclassmen at the top in the years to come.

“I think we’ve definitely done a good job making them feel comfortable and getting them ready. “Dumont said. “It’s rewarding to work super hard to where we are now and knowing that there’s a group behind us ready to do the same.”

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