York High School's Kristen Leroux puts up a shot in the team's Wednesday Class A semifinal game against undefeated and top-ranked Brunswick High School. Brunswick would go on to win by a score of 52-23. Credit: Ryan O'Leary | Portsmouth Herald

PORTLAND, Maine — If it played its best game, the York High School girls basketball team felt it would have a puncher’s chance against the undefeated top seed and defending regional champion.

Instead, coach Steve Freeman called Wednesday’s performance against Brunswick his team’s worst game of the season.

The Wildcats turned the ball over 33 times, allowed four runs of more than nine points, scored in double figures in just one quarter and ultimately saw their season end on Wednesday afternoon with a 52-23 loss to Brunswick in the Class A South semifinals at Cross Insurance Arena.

“After watching film, we knew there were some real vulnerable pieces to this Brunswick team,” Freeman said. “We probably played our worst game of the year, and they were not blowing us out.”

York sophomore Nina Howe, who tore her ACL in last year’s regional semifinal here against Brunswick, was held to just seven points, which was a team high.

“We were well aware they were going to focus on (Howe),” Freeman said. “We had Plan B and C, but we never executed Plan A. Without getting the ball into the offensive set … they were pressing our guards and we were setting our plays up at half-court rather than getting to the top of the key and starting our offense. You can’t do anything at half court. I give Brunswick that credit. I think they knew we were nervous.”

York finished its season at 11-9. Brunswick (20-0) will face No. 2 Greely in the regional championship on Saturday for the second straight year. Brunswick beat Greely last year, 54-51, and advanced to the state championship game.

Greely (18-2) advanced with a 66-48 win over third-seeded Marshwood in Wednesday’s first semifinal.

“York is such a great (program) and they had a great season,” Brunswick coach Sam Farrell said. “It was nice to get by them. We’re excited about going back (to the regional final). We have some special kids and it’s just a cherry on top when they can be successful in the win/loss column.”

Both teams struggled from the outset as York turned the ball over 14 times in the first quarter, while Brunswick turned the ball over eight times.

Alexis Guptil’s basket in the paint broke a 2-2 tie with 3:25 left in the opening quarter. It started a 10-0 run in just over two minutes as Brunswick, which entered the game averaging 62 points a game on the season, took a 12-2 lead

A Jackie Tabora basket on the opening possession of the second and a subsequent 3-pointer by Howe cut the Brunswick lead to 15-9 with 6:36 left. However, Brunswick didn’t allow a field goal the rest of the half, outscoring York 12-2, and took a 27-11 lead into the intermission.

The deficit never dipped below 10 points the rest of the way and got as high 29 (50-21) late in the fourth quarter.

“We were not unhappy with the defense we were playing, but we never got our offense on track,” Freeman said. “We never got out of the gate offensively and it didn’t change in the second half. We never played our offensive sets. The kids weren’t looking offensively to the hole. I think the one thing that affected them more than anything else would be the atmosphere.”

The Wildcats converted on just nine field goals in the game, and managed just a Tabora basket in a third quarter that Brunswick won 10-2.

The Dragons connected on 15 of their 17 free-throw attempts; York was just 4 for 12 from the charity stripe.

York’s best offensive stretch came in the early going of the fourth quarter. Trailing 39-13, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run. Howe hit a baseline jumper, Tabora (six points) had a tough basket in the paint, junior forward Lauren Leroux (four points) hit one of two free throws and freshman Kristen Leroux finished the run with a baseline floater with 4:56 left, cutting the deficit to 39-20. It marked the only time in the game where the Wildcats scored on multiple possessions without allowing a point.

“I thought we did a great job with our rotation and getting hands in the passing lane,” Farrell said. “I think we gave them fits for most of the game, and that was our goal. We have those longer guards and our bigs move well; when everybody moves as a unit our defense does a great job.”

Junior guard Marley Groat was the lone Brunswick scorer in double figures with a game-high 17 points. Groat hit on two of Brunswick’s five 3-pointers and scored 12 points in the second half. Senior Sabrina Armstrong and junior guard Rian Sachs each scored eight points for Brunswick.

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