Oh the weather outside has been frightful. Between snow, ice, and bitter cold, the elements have wreaked havoc on this winter’s sports schedules. No one knows this better then the state’s athletic administrators who have been left scrambling to reschedule contests. This week alone, two days were lost due to inclement weather for most teams throughout the region. As with every year, despite the harsh conditions, the games will all be played and the tournament will commence in about four weeks time.
Because of all the postponements, it might be wise not to put too much stock into the Heal points until the last week or two in the season. There is such a discrepancy in the number of games played as some teams are 2/3 of the way through their schedule, while several teams are less then halfway through their season.
This past Friday night, I made the long drive up I-95 to Houlton to catch the Shiretowners in action against a strong contingent from Calais. Kyle Bouchard gets plenty of accolades, and deservedly so. On this night he torched the Blue Devils for 28 points, scoring in a variety of ways. Calais had no answer for him in the low post but then Bouchard also hit some big three’s in a third quarter stretch to extend the lead to as many as fourteen.
Of course, a championship caliber team cannot do it with just one player contributing. In addition to Bouchard, there are several other players who make this team the prohibitive favorites to win gold on March 1st. Two players that particularly impressed me on this night were senior guard Nick Guiod and junior forward Christian Crane. Guiod is a kid who wears his emotions on his sleeve but plays the game with reckless abandon. I’ve had the chance to see them twice this season, neither game he shot the ball particularly well, yet he makes so much happen for them. When there is a loose ball, he is usually the first player on the floor after it and even dove into the stands under the basket to make a save. He has greatly improved as a passer and in his overall understanding of the game from a year ago. I’ve seen a lot of basketball this year but have witnessed few players who play as hard as Nick Guiod.
Christian Crane stepped into a more prominent role for the club when starting center Elyjah Crockett went away over Christmas break. Crane, listed at 6’3″, is the perfect complement to Bouchard in the low block. His wide frame makes him a tough match-up. Having been thrust into a starting role, Crane scored in double figures in key victories over Washington Academy and Calais.
By the way, when Houlton is good, there isn’t a better game day atmosphere in Eastern Maine then Houlton High School
One of the more surprising teams in Class B boys is MDI. The Trojans came into the season with a number of holes to fill off a team that reached the Eastern Maine championship game. At 7-2 the Trojans have exceeded many expectations. MDI’s formula to date has been patient half-court offense and solid half-court man-to-man defense. There’s nothing flashy about these Trojans. Very rarely do they take an off-balanced quick shot and defensively they don’t put teams on the foul line, two signs of a well-coached team. In recent games against John Bapst and Old Town, the Crusaders did not attempt a free throw in the entire game, while Old Town only shot seven free throws in their contest.
MDI is led by senior guard Jonathan Phelps, who at this point would get my vote as player of the year in the Big East, if I had one. Phelps is scoring about twenty points per game. More impressive is ability to set up his teammates for open shots. As the season has progressed, other players are stepping up and scoring. Andrew Davis, a 6’2″ senior center had a break-out performance against the Coyotes, scoring 19 points, with a combination of low post moves and 15-17 footers.
A team surging after a bit of a slow start in Class C boys is the Penquis Patriots. Under first year head coach, Jason Mills, the Patriots pulled off three victories this week including a big 52-45 win at Dexter on Tuesday night. They followed that up with a resounding 18 point win at home versus Mattanawcook and another home win over Schenck, upping their record to 7-3. Leading the charge for Penquis is senior guard Trevor Lyford, who averaged 27 points per game in the three game stretch. This club was also competitive a week ago against a very talented Lee Acaemy team, trailing by only six heading into the fourth quarter before falling 56-40.
On a personal level, I had the good fortune of spending seven seasons with Jason Mills as his assistant coach at John Bapst. Jason instilled the proper priorities in his players, those of family first, academics, and basketball. Jason, a devoted family man, lives out those priorities. The people in the Milo area are very fortunate to have such a positive role model leading their charges.
Looking at the week ahead, MDI’s Hannah Shaw has a chance to break the 1000 point plateau when the Trojans host John Bapst on Monday night. This game was rescheduled from Saturday night, with the senior forward needing five points to reach the mark. In the boys ranks, the aforementioned Penquis Patriots play host to Piscataquis in a key Class C boys contest. Calais also plays host to a surging Washington Academy club, in a match-up of numbers two and three in Class C.
The action heats up on Tuesday night when Winslow heads to Rockland to face Oceanside in a big class B encounter. In another key KVAC B match-up Waterville, in search of a big Heal point win is at Medomak Valley. In Aroostook County, Katahdin travels north to take on an undefeated Easton team in the barn.
On Wednesday night, Hodgdon, whose one loss came at the hands of Houlton will travel six miles to take on the Shiretowners. Get there early if you plan to take this one in. Old Town also will be at Ellsworth in a key Big East B contest. On Thursday night, another big rivalry game takes place with Southern Aroostook taking the short trip south to face Katahdin.
Friday night features a match-up of the top two teams in Class B as Oceanside is at second-seeded Camden Hills. Oceanside won the first meeting in Rockland 84-67.
It should be a great week of basketball ahead. Let’s hope Mother Nature cooperates!