Everyone loves a good comeback story. The fighter that gets knocked to the ground, staggers to get him or herself up, brushes themselves off, and lives to fight another day. Movies like Rocky and Rudy touch our being and inspire us. We realize someday all of us will deal with obstacles, physical or otherwise. We can choose to rise as champions or wallow in self pity and misery.
The opening of this year’s high school basketball season featured many stories of once defeated participants rising above. At Bangor High School, coach Carl Parker guided the Rams on the floor once again following a thirty year absence. While Bangor fell short, 67-62 to Edward Little on opening night, there is no question the experienced, passionate mentor, will leave his stamp on the program. Coach Parker is a competitor from the word go. Rest assured, regardless of what transpires in terms of wins and losses, Bangor will compete night in and night out.
For some notable players, their status coming into the season was in question due to injuries suffered during the fall. Foxcroft Academy’s Hunter Smith suffered a dislocated hip in the Ponies football exhibition contest, requiring him to miss the entire season. It was doubtful Smith would be able to return to action in time for FA’s basketball season opener. Due to his diligence in rehab, Hunter was in fact able to suit up for the Ponies on Saturday night, scoring 16 points in Foxcroft’s 63-57 loss to Ellsworth.
Houlton’s Kolleen Bouchard, returned to action much earlier than anticipated on Saturday when the Shiretowners visited Orono. Bouchard, a sophomore who is also a standout in soccer, missed a majority of the fall season due to a bone ailment in her left ankle. In speaking with some close to the program, she didn’t figure to be in the defending state champions plans when they took to the floor early in the season. In their 58-35 win over Orono, she contributed 14 points in a balanced effort.
Brewer’s Danny Davis missed the entire 2014 season due to a stroke. Since then he has worked tirelessly with his strength and conditioning to contribute to the Witches in this his senior year. Coming off a football season in which he was named All-Conference, Davis comes off the bench, providing a spark for the Brewer basketball team.
Looking to exorcise the memories from an 0-18 campaign, the John Bapst boys, with the majority of players returning from a year ago, made a strong commitment in the offseason to get significantly better. The Crusaders turned in a stellar defensive effort in Saturday’s opener, defeating Caribou 39-30. John Bapst led by eighteen through three quarters held on, surviving a 3-20 showing from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
As satisfying as the win was for the Crusaders, it wasn’t the most poignant comeback of the day. Seated on the John Bapst bench in street clothes was their teammate Jon Bowman. Bowman has been battling cancer since July. The team took to the floor during warm-ups wearing t-shirts that said on the front “We Fight Together” and on the back “Team Bowman 1.” The most satisfying part of watching the team enjoy a moment they had worked so hard for was to look over and see that big wide smile on Jon’s face. Bowman is making progress everyday. While he still has a long road ahead with treatment, the worst appears to be behind him, with the future looking bright.
The Penquis Valley boys basketball team will take to the floor for the first time on Tuesday night when they travel to Dexter. For the Patriots’ head coach, Jason Mills, the early season rigors of the high school basketball season took a hiatus for a trip of a lifetime. You see, this trip marked another comeback. It was a comeback that truly had come full circle with a beautiful ending. Jason, who also celebrated a birthday on Saturday, accompanied his son Zak, both passionate Duke fans, to Durham, North Carolina to watch their beloved Blue Devils in action.
As many of you are aware, twelve year old Zak Mills, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his wrist earlier this year. He began treatment in February, just wrapping up his sessions in late September. Through the Make a Wish Foundation, the family was able to get behind the scenes access to the Duke program. In the postgame press conference, Duke defeated Buffalo 82-59, Zak asked Coach K a question, in which the Hall of Fame coach, responded, “That’s the best question anyone has asked me all year.” Krzyzewski could not have been more gracious.
Athletics, especially athletics in its purest form, have a way to make us pause and take inventory of our own lives. The opening of this season showed examples in how to deal with adversity in such a positive way.