With a new coach, Freeport High´s girls´ basketball team started the season slowly, losing three of its first five games. Jim Seavey said that was to be expected.
"The expectation level, the accountability, that was all new to them," said Seavey, who has previously won state championships at Scarborough and Greely.
"It takes time when those things change. But these kids are coachable, they work their tails off every day.
"The one thing we´ve talked about all year is getting better every day, whether it´s achieving an individual goal or a team goal. And it´s paid off."
When the Falcons beat Traip 54-27 last Friday night, it was their fourth consecutive win, and also clinched the team´s first winning regular season since 2001-02. Joe Heathco coached Freeport to a 10-8 mark that year.
Since then the Falcons (10-6) have made four playoff appearances, but never finished better than 9-9 in the regular season (twice, 2004-05 and last year).
Both times the Falcons lost in the preliminary round of the tournament.
"I didn´t know it had been that long," said Seavey.
All he knows is that the Falcons are playing as well as they have all season. "We´ve said all along that we want to be playing our best ball at the end of season," he said.
Freeport is led by 5-foot-11 junior forward Nina Davenport, who one coach called the best player in the conference. She´s averaging 19.7 points a game and just over eight rebounds. But, said Seavey, she´s not doing it alone.
"First off, we´re healthy," he said. "Second, we´re getting different kids to contribute every night. We´re much more aggressive defensively. The number of deflections we´re getting has really gone up over the last four games.
"That means the kids are getting it and trusting each other. Any time you get more kids to contribute, it helps their confidence.
And the more confident the individual players are, the better it is for your team."
Seavey said the play of senior forward Jocelyn Davee over the last four games has been a big spark, especially defensively. Leigh Wyman is improving her scoring, while still leading the team in assists.
Point guard Aubrey Pennell is healthy -- "And we´re a different team with her on the court," said Seavey -- and Ashley Richardson, Hannah Chase and Vanessa Lee have made big strides.
CAMDEN HILLS´ Jordan Knowlton had a big week as she became the school´s all-time leading scorer.
On Thursday she passed Meg Cressler (1,372 points) as the school´s all-time leading girls´ scorer.
Then on Saturday, she passed Tyler McFarland (1,403 points) as the school´s all-time scorer.
She needed 11 to tie him against Mt. View on Saturday and got 12 in the first quarter, finishing with 18. She has 1,410 points in her career.
"She´s carrying a bigger load for us this year," said Coach Marty Messer.
"I think teams are focusing more on her this year but over the last eight games, we´ve become much more well-rounded. We´re trying to take pressure off her."
She´s still averaging 22.2 points per game, along with 7.8 rebounds.
Messer said the emergence of sophomore center Rachel Pease has been huge lately. She´s averaging 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots a game over the last four.
LEAVITT´S Courtney Anderson re-injured her left ankle last Saturday.
She missed four games earlier this year and will miss more now. How many? Her coach and mother, Tammy Anderson, isn´t sure.
"We´re trying to get her back," said Anderson.
"It´s probably smart to hold off this week. I know she´d like to get in on Senior Night, but we´re trying to keep her from getting permanent damage. Right now she´s having difficulty walking."
Anderson, who is heading to the University of New Hampshire on scholarship, was averaging 27.9 points per game. She sprained her left ankle earlier, but did not damage any ligaments or tendons.
Last Saturday, trying to foul a Gardiner player in the final seconds, she landed awkwardly and sprained it again.
The Hornets are in fourth place in the latest Western Class B Heal point standings. Coach Anderson is hoping they stay there, avoid a preliminary game and thus be off until Feb. 19.
"We´re hoping to get her back in a Leavitt uniform," she said. "But it´s a matter of being able to walk before playing."
PORTLAND IS making a run at a Western Class A playoff spot. The Bulldogs (6-10) currently hold down the final spot.
"We´re working our way back," said Bulldogs Coach Jan Veinot. "We´re getting better and better."
Portland is getting exceptional play from freshman Merritt Ryan, who had 19 points in last Friday´s win at Massabesic, coming off a game in which she had 12 in the fourth quarter to help beat Westbrook.
Junior Brianna Holdren and sophomore Elizabeth Donato are also playing well for Portland.
"We´re still very young," said Veinot. "This is a good start for a growing program."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jordan Knowlton, Camden Hills, senior forward: Knowlton became the school´s all-time leading scorer -- in boys´ and girls´ basketball -- last week. She scored 21 in a 65-37 win over Waterville, had 21 in a 57-39 win over Medomak Valley (to pass Meg Cressler as the all-time girls´ leader) and then 18 in a 69-25 win over Mt. View (to pass Tyler McFarland as the school´s all-time leader). She has 1,410 points in her career. She´ll play at the University of Southern Maine next year.
Ally Hickey, Falmouth, sophomore guard/forward: Scored the winning basket with 10 seconds left in a 36-35 victory over Wells to push the Yachtsmen into 10th place in tightly-contested Western Class B playoff race. Had 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Mallory Nelson, Mt. Ararat, senior forward: Led the Eagles to two big Eastern Class A wins. Had 18 in a 67-46 decision over Skowhegan, then 18 points in a 64-43 win over Cony
Christina Colman, Old Orchard Beach, senior center: Scored 30 points in victories over Hyde and Sacopee Valley to help the Seagulls move into third in Western Class C.
AREA TOP TEN
4. Lake Region
6. Mt. Ararat
10. South Portland