There will be plenty of room on the bench for the Greenville High School girls basketball team for Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. state Class D championship game in Bangor against defending champ Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.
That’s because the Lakers have only eight players on the roster.
But five of those players are juniors who all started as sophomores. Three of them also started as freshmen.
And those juniors know what it’s like to win a state championship because they won the Class D softball title last spring.
Greenville is seeking its first girls basketball state championship since 1985. Last year, the Lakers boys ended a 64-year drought by winning the Class D boys basketball title.
If there is one statistic that reveals how Greenville captured the Class D South title for the first time since 2010, it is the fact the 15-6 Lakers have allowed only 31.5 points per game. They were even better in the D South tourney, surrendering only 21.7 points per contest.
“Our defense has been the key. That has been our go-to all year,” said second-year head coach Maren Mason. “We’re working on building our offense around our defense.”
The Lakers play a variety of zones and Mason said her players are disciplined in them and efficiently rotate to cover the shooters.
She calls her five juniors the “Fab Five.”
“They are all natural athletes,” said Mason. “They’re a talented group.”
In addition to playing softball and basketball, they also play soccer. And Greenville has benefited from their chemistry and familiarity with each other.
“They’re poised and they don’t even have to say anything to each other to know what they’re thinking.”
“They’re special,” Mason said.
But it also makes it difficult, Mason said, in that because the athletes play three sports, they don’t play basketball year-round.
The Lakers have good balance offensively with 5-foot-10 center Halle Pelletier leading the way. She is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds.
Mason said Pelletier was their primary offensive threat last season and Greenville didn’t have much supplemental scoring behind her.
The Lakers scored only 34 points in their semifinal loss to eventual regional champ Vinalhaven (54-34) a year ago.
“The other girls were timid. They didn’t want to shoot,” Mason said. “They didn’t have confidence in themselves.”
But that has changed. The Lakers have worked to become a good shooting team.
“We have balance. When they’re open, they’ve been stepping up,” Mason said.
Junior forward Bianca Breton, who stands 5-7, is considered the best athlete on the team by Mason. Breton, the sister of former University of Maine soccer striker Hannah Breton, is averaging five points and seven rebounds.
Tiegan Murray is a 5-2 forward-guard who has produced seven points, seven rebounds and three steals per contest.
The guards are speedy 5-3 playmaker Jessica Pomerleau (11 ppg, 3 spg) and defensive leader 5-6 Morgan Noyes (7 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 spg).
Senior forward Abbi Carrier has played some important minutes off the bench and had eight points in their 50-29 semifinal win over Temple Academy of Waterville.
Center Lila Kronholm, who stands 5-10, and 5-2 guard Ashley Bussell are freshmen who contributed productive minutes.
The Lakers played a challenging schedule with six games against Class C North teams, two against Class D North finalist Deer Isle-Stonington and two more against Class D North semifinalist Schenck of East Millinocket.
Greenville went 4-6 against those teams, which Mason said make the Lakers better.
The Lakers beat Class C North champion Penobscot Valley of Howland 31-28 on Dec. 27 and Mason said that was her No. 1 goal entering the season.
It also gave her team a valuable shot of confidence, letting the Lakers know they can compete against quality opponents.
Mason had hoped her team could reach the regional championship this season and they have already exceeded that goal.
She knows they will have their hands full with a veteran Southern Aroostook team that is averaging 65 points per game.
“If we can hold them to 40 points, I’ll be pretty darned happy,” Mason said. “We’re going to have to limit their running game.”