Over the past week, many high school students across Maine took part in that dreaded bi-annual ritual: exam week. Leading up to the week, some spent countless hours, burning the midnight oil, in hopes of scoring well. The next few days will be spent by teachers grading the tests, calculating final grades for the semester. As ranks are posted, schools will publish their honor rolls, recognizing those students who achieved academic excellence during the just completed term.
In keeping with the theme of celebrating excellence with the close of the first semester here is the Press Box Honor Roll:
Honors for the best newcomers to the high school basketball scene goes to: The Southern Aroostook girls. The Lady Warriors squad numbers only eight players, all competing in their first year of high school basketball. The Dyer Brook based school may not have been able to even field a team this winter if not for an adjustment to an MPA rule in the off-season. Eighth graders are now allowed to play provided there are sixty or fewer of that gender in a school, up from the previous number of forty. Good thing as Southern Aroostook’s eight player squad features four freshmen and four eighth graders. The squad currently sits atop a wide open class D north with a 10-5 record.
Honors for most well-rounded student-athlete goes to: Alec Clark of Winslow. The senior cheerleader may be best known for his exploits on the football gridiron. The honor roll student is the Class C North Player of the Year, playing on the offensive line and as a linebacker. Clark is also a Gaziano Lineman Award finalist. He is also active in the 4-H Club and grows pumpkins for his business A.C Pumpkins.
Honors for best entrance music at a high school basketball game goes to: MDI band for their performance of the “Jesus Christ Superstar” theme. This one isn’t even debatable, folks.
Honors for most team perseverance goes to: MDI and Houlton girls, as well as the Brewer boys. The MDI girls suffered a major blow when University of Maine bound senior Sierra Tapley when down with a season ending knee injury in their victory over Ellsworth on January 6th. Since the injury, the Trojans have rattled off six straight wins, including a 47-41 victory over Presque Isle on Friday night. The win avenged an 80-57 loss to the Wildcats in the county when MDI had their full complement of players.
Incidentally also at MDI’s Bernard Parady Gymnasium, Houlton’s senior center Katie Condon was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Shiretowners currently sit atop the Class B North standings, having only lost once, that being at MDI.
The Brewer Witches boys team seemed to have suffered a major blow when one of their top returning guards, senior Logan Rogerson, suffered a dislocated hip in their football regional championship game. Many forgot, however, Brewer still had three other returning starters ready to compete in the new look Class A North. Players such as Matt Pushard, Carter Smith, and Jameson Rhodes-Doyle have helped pace Brewer. The Witches have also picked up key contributions from Kobe Rogerson, Cameron Wood, and many others.
Honors for top comeback players go to: Brewer’s Danny Davis and Foxcroft Academy’s Hunter Smith. Davis missed the entire 2014-15 season due to complications from a stroke suffered in November 2014. He came back in great shape for the football season and gives his basketball team a spark coming off the bench.
Smith, the reigning Big East Conference Class B Player of the Year, dealt with a season-ending injury in football, which occurred in their preseason contest. Hunter was cleared just in time for the start of basketball season and scored his 1000th career point on Thursday night in the Ponies 61-48 home loss to Old Town.
Honors for most entertaining division goes to: Class B North Boys. The 2015-16 season in this division has been the most wide-open, unpredictable of all. Different favorites have emerged as the season has progressed. Orono, MDI, and Old Town have all been at or near the top all year. Washington Academy can put up a lot of points on a given night, while Ellsworth features plenty of guard play and decent size. Throw in Winslow from the KVAC, who if they are knocking down shots from the perimeter can beat anyone. This should be a very interesting tournament in a few week’s time.
Honors for game of the year goes to: Brewer at Bangor boys. The Rams were in desperate need of a victory, entering Saturday’s contest at 2-11, having lost a number of competitive games playing what is arguably the toughest schedule in the state. The players from both teams whocontributed mightily all year did so on Saturday. Bangor’s point guard Ethan Dorman seemed to put the team on his back, willing the team to victory. George Payne had a breakout game for the Rams, hitting key shots at crucial times.
Bangor saw a fifteen point third quarter lead evaporate, although the comeback was more about Brewer making big plays than it was about Bangor losing the lead. Brewer’s Matt Pushard fouled out with about five minutes to play in regulation. It was then Carter Smith and Cameron Wood making big shot after big shot to help force the game into overtime. In the extra period, Bangor was able to execute, hitting clutch free throws in pulling out the 75-69 thriller.
This past Thursday featured plenty of symmetry as Foxcroft Academy’s Hunter Smith and Southern Aroostook’s Jackson Mathers each joined their school’s 1000 point club. I was in Dyer Brook to see Mathers hit the first of two free throws in the games’ final moments to reach the plateau. As an aside, while I’m presenting honors, the best pregame meal of the year goes to Grammy’s Country Inn in beautiful downtown Linneus.
Smith needed 24 points entering his team’s game home game versus Old Town while Mathers required 27 points to reach the mark in their contest with Central Aroostook. Each player finished the night with 28 points. Both players also joined their fathers in their school’s 1000 point club. Hunter Smith’s father, Dean Smith, graduated from Foxcroft Academy in 1987, while Bill Mathers achieved the feat for Southern Aroostook in 1991. It is the first time a father and son have accomplished this milestone at both schools.