AUGUSTA — Seven losses might not have been what the Cony girls basketball team expected entering the 2023-24 season, but consider what it was up against this winter.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that played a tougher schedule this season than Cony, not to mention that it had to do it with a rotation consisting primarily of six players. That Cony is even here is a testament to the players who are on the floor — players who powered them in Thursday’s regular season finale.

Cony closed out the regular season with a 53-44 victory over rival Gardiner. The win secured the No. 3 seed in the Class A North tournament for the Rams, who enter the postseason as tested as anyone as the schedule turns to do-or-die time on the other side of town.

“I think playing the teams we’ve played has made us better,” said Cony senior Maci Freeman. “We have had a really tough schedule, but I think that’s prepared us more for the playoffs. … We’re a talented team, and tonight,we came out and got it done with teamwork.”

Abby Morrill scored a game-high 13 points for Cony, which also got 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks from Morgan Fichthorn. Emilee Brown scored 12 points for Gardiner, while teammate Taylor Takatsu had seven points and nine rebounds. Megan Carver added six points and 14 rebounds for the Tigers.

On the boys side, Gardiner stunned Cony, 57-35. The Tigers (4-14) led the Rams (7-11) from wire to wire, jumping out to a 19-4 en route to a 28-20 halftime advantage before dominating the home team in the second half.


The Cony girls (11-7) got off to a slow start as its only basket over the first 5 minutes, 15 seconds came on a Morrill 3-pointer. Yet Gardiner failed to truly take advantage of the Rams’ struggles, never leading by more than three points in the first quarter and needing a Carver floater at the buzzer to tie the score at 11 going into the second.

Gardiner (8-10) then turned the ball over three times in the first minute of the second quarter, and Cony answered each time at the other end to lead 18-11 with 6:45 left in the half. Then, with the Rams up 23-17 in the final seconds, a Cassie Lacroix off-balance 3-point heave at the buzzer sent the home team to the break up by nine.

Gardiner girls basketball coach Britney Gero is shown on the sidelines during a basketball game Thursday at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It was a lucky shot, but it was a big one for us, for sure,” said Cony head coach John Dennett. “You kind of feel bad for the other team in that situation because they had been really well late in the second quarter, but then we hit that shot, and that kind of helps us pick it up in the second half.”

After the Tigers’ Brown hit a 3-pointer to begin the second half, the Rams held the visitors to three points for the rest of the third quarter to take a 37-23 lead into the fourth. Gardiner got within nine points four separate times in the fourth but could not get closer.

Dennett said Cony got “a little bit selfish” offensively in the fourth quarter after the strong third, which prevented the Rams from blowing the game as wide open as they could have. Although Gardiner scored 27 points in the second half after just 17 in the first, Cony, Dennett said, came up with big plays defensively when it mattered.

“We missed a lot of shots in the first half, but I still think we played really well offensively,” Dennett said. “In the second half, I think our defense really buckled down; we got a little bit selfish offensively, but our defense did what we needed to do, and I think that helped (make the difference) for us.”


Gardiner certainly battled, beating Cony 44-37 on the boards. Yet while the Rams found an offensive groove when they needed it, the Tigers’ early struggles left them playing a game of catch-up that proved too much.

“We played hard, rebounded well, and we defended pretty well — we cut down on their 3s a lot — but we just could not make a basket,” said Gardiner head coach Britney Gero. “It is what is, and all we can do is brush it off, move on and work extremely hard this coming week.”

Cony’s Cale Barajas, left, snags an offensive rebound under the basket during Thursday’s game against Gardiner in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gardiner’s four-game winning streak was snapped with the loss. The seventh-ranked Tigers will face No. 2 Hampden Academy (13-5) in the Class A North quarterfinals, while No. 3 Cony will take on sixth-ranked Brewer (6-12).

The second game of the doubleheader saw Gardiner register the upset victory over Cony. 

Led by a balanced scoring effort, Gardiner got 13 points from Brady Atwater, 11 points from Brady Peacock, eight points apiece from Zach Kristan and Trace Moody and seven each from Dillon Elliott and Anthony Rivera. Parker Sergent had a game-high 16 points to lead Cony.

With Cony locked into the No. 6 seed and Gardiner eliminated from tournament contention, only pride was on the line between the Rams and Tigers. Gardiner, though, was the better team in every facet as it closed out a difficult season with a lopsided win over its biggest rival.

“Our execution was perfect, we played hard, we played together, and it was a great way to end the year,” said Gardiner head coach Aaron Toman. “This group of seniors, they’ve come to practice every day, battled and worked hard. It was great to give them something to remember.”

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