As we chisel our way through the ice to get to our family and loved ones this holiday season, here are some random thoughts through the first two weeks of the high school basketball season:
The Cross Insurance Center is a beautiful facility and will be a great home for the tournament for years to come. With a large crowd in the plush new building the atmosphere while different, will have a special feel all its own. The seats are nearly as close to the floor as the old Auditorium. While I have great memories of many tournaments in the Bangor Auditorium it was clearly time for a new arena.
The first regular season game I witnessed two weeks ago between Waterville and Camden Hills boys featured 75 fouls. No friends, that’s not a typo, 75. Since the first couple of games, players seemed to have adjusted quite nicely and the majority of games I’ve seen so far have been very enjoyable to watch and have had good flow to them.
The Class B boys tournament will be a wide open affair. Right now, only MDI and Caribou sport undefeated records and will face each other Friday night in Bar Harbor. This should be a great game as both teams feature outstanding guards in Dayne Savage for Caribou and Jon Phelps for MDI. Neither team dazzles you with tremendous athleticism but are both solid defensively and patient at the offensive end. In a year where there is no standout team, that could be enough to cut down the nets come Championship Saturday.
Speaking of MDI, is there a better tradition in Maine high school athletics than the basketball team taking the floor with the band belting out “Jesus Christ Superstar”? I think not.
Of course, we can’t have a discussion of Eastern B Boys Basketball without mentioning the KVAC, since a team from that conference has been in the past 13 state championship games. Oceanside top is bottom is the most athletic team I’ve seen in Class B. Isaiah Stone-Patterson is as good a guard as you’ll find, strong with the ball, can shoot the three with precision, and can create his own shot. Their explosiveness was on full display to start the 2nd half as they went on a 32-0 run to turn a tight 36-33 halftime lead into a 68-33 romp before downing Nokomis 74-49 on Saturday. As usual, Camden Hills will be right in the mix as well as Winslow.
There have been rumors the Presque Isle girls might be in a bit of a building mode and have come closer to the pack after two straight undefeated state championship seasons. The only thing is: someone forgot to tell them. The Wildcats struggled a bit in their first game at Hermon, trailing by double digits in the first half, only to rally for an eight point win. I had the chance to see them in action in The County on Thursday when they took on John Bapst and rolled to a 79-29 victory. One word describes this team: relentless. They play just as hard up thirty or forty as if they are in a tight game. On Saturday they won their fiftieth consecutive game by defeating Foxcroft Academy 75-35. And the scary thing is they have just one senior on the roster.
Like Class B boys, Class D boys appears to be wide open as well. Teams such as Hodgdon, Easton, Southern Aroostook, an athletic Stearns team, who is off to a slow start but is very athletic, should be there in the end. In the end, still look out for Central Aroostook. The Panthers were without standout guard Chandler Brewer early in the season, he’s back and will continue to get better throughout the season as he gets healthy.
A couple of Bangor area teams are in the midst of a youth movement, as Central and Orono feature freshmen playing prominent roles on their squads. I had a chance to see Central on Wednesday night when they took on the Dexter Tigers. Caleb Shaw, a lightning quick guard, has a motor that never stops. Defensively, he’s all over the floor while offensively he can penetrate defenses and can get to the rim. Andrew Speed, a shooting guard, came off the bench to score 14 points, knocking down some 3-pointers in the process. The Red Devils fell to 1-4 as Dexter scored a 50-49 victory as senior guard Trevor Fogarty knocked down a shot at the buzzer. Throw in sophomore forward Kyle Ham into the mix and the future looks very bright in Corinth.
Orono will feature as many as four freshmen on the floor at any one time. Nate DeSisto, Keenan Collett, Jackson Coutts, and Jake Koffman are names you’ll likely see prominently featured over the next four years. The Red Riots opened the season with a buzzer beating win over George Stevens, then lost two in a row before getting a big win over Penquis last Monday. Their biggest effort to date might have come in last Thursday’s 58-51 loss to a strong Old Town club.
With Christmas coming on Wednesday, my hoop schedule will be a bit light this week. Tomorrow night I’ll be in Bucksport where the John Bapst girls will take on the Lady Bucks. Moving on to Friday night I’ll catch Hermon at John Bapst girls at the Cross Insurance Center. I plan on catching three games on Saturday starting with a big morning clash with the Presque Isle girls at MDI. From there it’s on to Ellsworth as the boys host Caribou. The nightcap on Saturday will be the John Bapst boys at Hermon.
From the press box, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.