Lawrence’s Hope Bouchard looks to shake Cony defender Abby Morrill during a Class A North semifinal game on Feb. 22 at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — A week to prepare for a single basketball is a long time, and Greg Chesley wants to make sure there’s nothing that’s about to catch him off-guard.

Following last week’s Northern Maine title win, the head coach of the Lawrence girls basketball team has spent countless hours watching film of his team’s state championship game opponent. In doing so, he’s tried, in his own words, “to hold it all in” as the days slowly go by.

“It’s a stressful wait, and I’m not sure there’s been much sleep involved,” Chesley said. “Since Friday night, I don’t know that there’s a Brunswick game I haven’t seen. It’s been a lot of nights staying up late, watching games and making sure you’re as ready as you can be.”

Alas, that wait — one that’s felt like seven years to these players rather than seven days — is just about over. On Friday, Lawrence will face Brunswick at 6:05 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center in a Class A state championship battle between two teams that clearly stood above the rest in their respective regional tournaments.

Not once in the Class A North tournament did Lawrence trail any of its three opponents. The No. 2 Bulldogs (18-3) dominated Erskine Academy and Cony to reach the regional final, and although top-ranked Gardiner made a late push in that game, Lawrence stayed in the front the whole way in a 61-54 victory.

Few teams succeed offensively and defensively as much as Lawrence, which has held opponents below the 40-point mark in 13 of 21 games while eclipsing 50 points in all but three. Two of the Bulldogs’ losses came against Gardiner, defeats avenged with the regional final win, with the other coming to Class AA contender Bangor.


Lawrence girls basketball players celebrate after beating Gardiner to win the Class A North championship last Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Hope Bouchard is a star, and they have a bunch of players around her who can score and defend,” said Brunswick head coach Sam Farrell. “I’ll tell you, watching film, they play some of the toughest man-to-man defense this season. We know they’re well-coached, and that’s a program up in Fairfield that has a lot of tradition.”

Brunswick, no less dominant, fell behind Westbrook 2-1 for 43 seconds early on in their Class A South quarterfinal victory. The top-ranked Dragons (19-2) never trailed again, beating the Blue Blazes with ease before adding victories over Falmouth and Gray-New Gloucester to claim the Southern Maine crown.

Just as Lawrence prides itself on defense, so, too, does Brunswick. In their three regional tournament wins, the Dragons allowed 81 points, including a championship game win in which it held Gray-New Gloucester to 23. Only four times all year has Brunswick allowed more than 40 in a game.

“The thing that stands out to you most is their physicality; they’re a strong, athletic, physical group,” Chesley said. “They’re great on the defensive end, and they’re going to try to trap you and put you into stops you’re not comfortable with. You have to be sure you’re ready for that physicality they’re going to bring.”

Two of Morse’s key players, Dakota Shipley and Maddy Werner, are transfers from nearby Morse High School. Werner is one of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s top rebounders and shot blockers, and Shipley is a potent scorer who frequently supplies the bulk of the Dragons’ offense.

Then, there’s Kelsie Carlton, a 5-foot-2 senior who can pass and defend with the best of them. She’s the leader of a Brunswick team that will be looking to win the program’s first-ever Gold Ball after the Dragons fell in their only other state championship game appearance in 2017.


“From when the kids get to my youth summer camps and clinics, this is the first thing I point out: We have a banner up there with a blank space where it says ‘state champions,’” Farrell said. “They’ve been thinking about it since they were little; they want to be that team.”

Just as Lawrence avenged its two regular season losses to Gardiner with the regional final win, Brunswick’s Class A South title game victory over Gray-New Gloucester made amends for one of its two defeats. The Dragons’ only other loss came in a 48-44 defeat to Oxford Hills, which just won the AA North championship.

Despite playing zero common opponents, Lawrence and Brunswick are somewhat familiar with one another after meeting in the preseason. The Dragons won that matchup by double digits, though it was a result, the Bulldogs’ Elizabeth Crommett said, that came with a caveat.

“Bri (Poulin) didn’t play that day, and most of us were sick,” Crommett said. “We weren’t shooting it very good, and we were still coming together and adding new girls. We had never played with Maddie Provost before, so we were still getting the chemistry going.”

That chemistry is on point now for the Bulldogs, whose six seniors have been jelling throughout the postseason with Bouchard’s playmaking, Poulin’s post presence and all-around strong outside shooting. It could certainly carry Lawrence to a Gold Ball, one that would be its sixth overall and first since 2015.

As is often the case in the state championship game, winning this one, a game against a Brunswick team that can keep pace with anyone in the state, is Lawrence’s most daunting challenge to date. The Bulldogs, though, know what brought them here — and it’s just what they’re going to trust to carry them through.

“We know we’ll need to push the ball up the court, but that’s something that’s been our goal the entire season,” Poulin said. “We’re going into it with the same mindset we have all year. We’ve been playing really well, and we’re feeling good, so we’re not going to change it up now.”

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