Cony’s Abby Morrill drives through Lawrence defenders Madalyn Provost, left, and Alicen Higgins during a Class A North girls basketball semifinal last season at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

As teams hit the floor this winter for a new girls basketball season, there are several questions facing central Maine teams that are coming off successful campaigns last season.

Lawrence had a dream season a year ago, beating Brunswick for the Class A championship, the program’s first Gold Ball since 2015.

Entering the 2023-2024 season, the Bulldogs have overhauled their starting lineup, after several players graduated. Hope Bouchard, one of the top guards in the state last season, is now playing field hockey at Husson University in Bangor. Alicen Higgins, Brianna Poulin and Elizabeth Crommett, all key members of Lawrence’s starting five last year, are now freshmen on the University of Maine at Augusta women’s basketball team.

With a younger roster, head coach Greg Chesley said he’s not only looking for new players to step up, but for new leaders as well.

“It’s early, but we’ve looked young,” Chesley said. “We’ve played Ellsworth, another defending state champ in a preseason game, and they beat us. We’ve played in a couple of other preseason games that we won handily. We lost a lot of talented players and we lost a lot of leadership. We’re young, and we’re looking for who is going to be that leader.”

There’s talent in place for the Bulldogs. Sophomore guard Maddie Provost, who scored 16 points in last year’s Class A final, is Lawrence’s top returner. Lilly Gray and Nadia Morrison — both 6-foot forwards — will be counted on in the post.


“When we’re in transition, we look really good,” Chesley said. “We have kids who played last year but have another year under their belt. If we have to slow it down, I think we can pound it inside with the best of them.”

Gardiner, which fell to Lawrence in the Class A North final, is also going through a time of transition. Head coach Mike Gray retired after 19 seasons leading the Tigers. Also gone is Miss Maine Basketball award winner Lizzy Gruber, who averaged 20.7 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game last year. Gruber also eclipsed 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during her career. The 6-foot-4 forward is now playing Division I basketball for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Britney Gero, who had served as Gray’s assistant since 2010, takes over as the new head coach for the Tigers. On the floor, Gardiner will be led by senior forward Taylor Takatsu, as well as forwards Megan Carver and Taryn Nichols.

“I think we’re going to be fast,” Gero said. “I think our identity will be defense and transition. We have some very fast kids, but was also have a big post presence still, so we’re looking at some new offensive sets there. We’ll be different this year, but we’ll be ready.”

Cony, which reached the A North semifinals last year, returns most of its starting lineup, led by Abby Morrill, who averaged 14 points per game as a sophomore last year. The Rams also return Abigail Clark, who missed all of last season due to wrist surgery.

Gardiner’s Taylor Takatsu (14) battles for the ball with Brewer’s Jill Ford (11) during a Class A North girls basketball quarterfinal last seaqson at the Augusta Civic Center. Morning Sentinel file photo

“I’ve got four returning starters and a couple new additions to the team,” Cony head coach John Dennett said. “It’s going to be a tough year (schedule-wise), so having some veterans is going to be really good. We dribble-drive, so girls know where each other is at (on the floor) at times. They know what it’s like to play together. Add another couple pieces to the puzzle, they know what they’re doing and they buy in.”


In Class B, Maranacook went 10-9 last season and reached the B South quarterfinals. The Black Bears will have two changes this season, making the switch from B South to B North, and moving from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference to the Mountain Valley Conference. The Black Bears will also have a relatively new starting five on the court, with the exception of their top player, senior guard Natalie Mohlar, who was a KVAC B first team selection last year.

“It’s a lot, so (the biggest thing you’re looking to get out of it) is experience,” Maranacook head coach Karen Magnusson said. “I have a lot of sophomores and only one junior and one senior, so for this group, it’s about trying to get better every single day. If we just work on getting better, we’ll be in a better spot a week from now, a better spot a month from now and a better spot going into next season.”

Mount View is also on the move, going from B North to C North this season. The Mustangs reached the B North prelims last season, led by forward Arianna Bradeen, who averaged 13.4 points per game and was named a KVAC B second team selection. Bradeen, a junior, returns as Mount View’s top player.

Valley’s Kirsten Bigelow dribbles up the court against Islesboro during a Class D South girls basketball quarterfinal game last season at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The story in Class C South are the new faces patrolling the sidelines. Hall-Dale, which won the Class C title in 2022, will have a new head coach in Laurie Rowe, after O.J. Jaramillo stepped down from the role. The Bulldogs remained contenders last season, reaching the C South semifinals. Also, Madison will have a new girls basketball coach for the first time since 1987, as Adam Rich now leads the program. Al Veneziano, the longtime coach whom the school’s gymnasium is named after, now serves as Madison’s athletic director.

In Class D, Valley will look to finally get over the hump and reach the state final for the first time since 2009. The Cavaliers have entered the D South playoffs as the No. 1 seed each of the past two years, only to be knocked out before reaching a state championship game.

“If (the playoff) losses don’t drive you (this season), then what does?” Valley head coach Gordon Hartwell said. “Everyone, each of the past two years, they’ve gone one step further (in the playoffs) both times. But still, the way we lost in the end was disappointing… I’d like to think we’re going to use it to be a little more focused this year.”

Madeline Hill, Kirsten Bigelow and Riley Clark, all key contributors last season, return for the Cavaliers.

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