Following a hiatus caused by the most recent ice storm and the Christmas season, high school basketball was back in full force this past weekend throughout the state. Of all the match-ups amidst the calm before the next deluge of Mother Nature, perhaps the most intriguing games were the Presque Isle and Caribou teams travelling to Hancock County. The Presque Isle girls and Caribou boys entered the weekend with unblemished records, both facing daunting tasks taking on Ellsworth and MDI.
On Friday night, Presque Isle rolled to a 70-42 victory over the host Eagles while in Bar Harbor, the Caribou boys, who didn’t lead in the contest until overtime, knocked MDI from the unbeaten ranks, 58-51 in double overtime.
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to witness the epic match-up between the Presque Isle girls, winners of 51 straight games, and MDI, a favorite to win this year’s Eastern Maine championship. This game was everything you could possibly want in a mid-season high school basketball game. There was tough, hard-nosed defense by both teams, big shots made by both teams, exemplary passing, and great in-game adjustments by both coaches.
Admittedly, I didn’t keep statistics during the game, but then again stats would not begin to adequately tell the story. In a game of runs, Presque Isle would abandon their vaunted 1-2-1-1 full court press in the second period in favor of a half court 2-3 zone, after MDI would break the press long for lay-ups early. The Trojans went cold early in the period watching Presque Isle build a 27-19 lead, while guard Sarah Phelps of MDI was plagued with three first half fouls.
With Presque Isle leading 31-27 at the half, MDI went on a 10-0 run to start the second half, aided by their 1-2-2 half court trap and 2-1-2 full court pressure to gain a 6-point lead. Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson, made yet another defensive adjustment going to a 1-3-1 half court trap in building a 54-47 lead with under 4 minutes to go.
MDI would force a number of turnovers late, drawing to within 1 with 10 seconds to play. Hannah Graham knocked down the second of two free throws to take a two point lead with 6 seconds to play. MDI advanced the ball to half court before calling timeout with 5 seconds left only to miss a potential game-winning 3 in the final seconds.
With no disrespect meant to the rest of Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball, there is a clear delineation among Presque Isle, MDI, Nokomis, and the remainder of the class. By the way, MDI and Presque Isle meet again on January 25th in Presque Isle.
In Ellsworth that afternoon, Caribou survived a sluggish start offensively to pull away for a 64-52 victory. Trailing 12-6 after one period, the Vikings remained patient in their half court offense and also made the Eagles pay on the back end of their 2-2-1 full court press to pull even at the half at 23. Vikings point Dayne Savage took control in the second half, he finished with 20 points, and also handled the ball adeptly, looking for the open man either on the break or in the post.
The upcoming week will answer a number of questions for a lot of teams who are considered contenders in their respective classes. Weather permitting, I plan on taking in the Houlton-Washington Academy in East Machias on Monday night. Hampden faces a touch road test at Messalonskee, who is coming off a big home win over Bangor. Calais, unbeaten after a season opening loss to Houlton, hosts Lee Academy, who suffered their first setback of the year Friday night in overtime at Washington Academy.
Tuesday, Bangor plays host to a Brunswick team that took Hampden to double overtime before falling short. I’ll be at the Cross Insurance Center as MDI will try to snap a two game losing streak and John Bapst will be in search of their first victory of the season. Old Town will also make the trip to Caribou to face the undefeated Vikings.
The New Year starts with 2 huge match-ups in Aroostook County with Caribou hosting Houlton on Thursday. Also on Thursday, class D contenders Hodgdon and Southern Aroostook face off in Dyer Brook.
The Eastern Maine basketball community suffered loss this past week with the passing of longtime Dexter basketball coach, Ed Guiski at the age of 77. A star athlete at Winslow High School, Guiski taught physical education at Dexter Regional High School for 38 years. His 26 year tenure with the Dexter boys featured over 300 victories and was highlighted by back to back Eastern Maine titles in 1985 and 1986. The Tigers captured gold in ’86 and was best known for their epic 5 overtime Eastern Maine Championship game victory over Rockland. The game ended about 12:30 A.M. due to a leaky roof at the Bangor Auditorium, causing the girls final to be delayed by an hour and a half. He also had a stint coaching the Dexter girls towards the end of his storied career. Coach Guiski was inducted in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
While I didn’t know Coach Guiski on a personal level, those who had the privilege of playing under his tutelage commented about what a giant of a man he was. Demanding and tough, he was also gentle and caring at the same time. Rest in peace, Ed Guiski.
The Post Game Press Conference
Congratulations go out to Parise Rossignol of Van Buren for her tremendous accomplishments on the hardwood throughout her high school career. Recently, Rossignol was recognized for eclipsing the 2,000 point plateau in her career, a feat previously accomplished by her father and coach, Matt Rossignol. Unfortunately, the talk surrounding this achievement has not only been centered on the number but how the number was achieved. You see, Van Buren counts totals from exhibition contests, in which they have played a total of seven in her four years, to accumulate records.
Now mind you, how an individual school chooses to recognize their own student-athletes should be up to them. In terms of establishing records, in comparison to players from other schools, there should be a recognized agreed upon standard by which we assess individual records. This is something the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches can take a look at and discuss at their next meeting. I believe only MPA countable games should count towards individual records. Simply put, exhibition games are merely that, exhibition games. As basketball is a team sport, if a teams goes 15-3 in the regular season on 0-2 in their preseason, I’ve never heard of a team referring to themselves as 15-5, no they are 15-3. To score 30 points in a pressure packed win or go home game has much more significance then to score 30 in a meaningless preseason match-up.
The argument has been made that Cindy Blodgett, the state’s all-time scoring leader, benefitted from having played in 88 MPA countable games, as her team won the state championship in each of her four years. So what is the problem with counting exhibition games? The difference is, Cindy and her teammates earned the right to play in those games by winning. Just as teammates set screens, make passes, and free you up to allow you to score all those points, the collective excellence potentially allow you to play in more games.
By going to a set standard, everyone benefits from players, coaches, and those who follow and cover the games. Parise, the amazing player that she is, likely would have surpassed 2,000 points later in the season without counting the preseason games. Why put an asterisk on a milestone that need not be there? Just some food for thought before the next storm hits.