The 2014-15 Maine high school basketball season began in earnest on Friday, December 5th with contests throughout the state. Some teams have opened the season with key players relegated to the sidelines. Such was the case this past Monday in Corinth where the Central boys took on Orono. Both teams have entered the season with high expectations. Orono, who advanced to the quarterfinals a year ago largely on the strength of their freshmen, are a year more experienced. The Red Devils of Central also return a boatload of veteran talent, coming off a 7-12 campaign, which marked their highest win total since 2006. Central is looking to make their first appearance in Bangor since that time.
Central was missing their sophomore point guard, Caleb Shaw, due to an ankle injury. The Red Riots were missing the services of sophomore point guard Nate DeSisto and senior forward Alik Espling. With both squads missing their floor generals the Red Devils pulled out a ragged 41-40 victory as Kyle Ham hit one of two from the line with about ten seconds to play. Shaw returned to action on Wednesday night as Central knocked off Lee Academy in overtime. Central became one of two teams in Maine to go 4-0 Friday night as they won decisively at Dexter. Rival Piscataquis of Guilford is also off to a 4-0 start and will battle in Guilford on Wednesday night. Orono looks to regain the services of DeSisto and Espling soon for Coach Jason Coleman’s club.
Speaking of teams missing their floor generals, the news isn’t as promising at Central Aroostook and Hodgdon. In Mars Hills, Chandler Brewer, who missed most of last season due to injury, is likely to miss his entire senior campaign due to an ACL injury. Hodgdon going into the season knew they would have to compensate for the loss of their all-everything player Chris Hudson, who is spending his senior year at a prep school in Massachusetts. To top that off they are also without the services of their diminutive point guard, Keegan Gardner, likely for the season also due to an ACL tear. Those of us who have followed high school basketball for years sometimes tend to forget these kids have just a short window in which to compete. Our hearts go out to those who are unable to do so.
While a number of school have dealt with early season injuries, the Bangor girls are thrilled to have back the services of senior center Cordelia Stewart. The 6’0″ senior center missed her entire junior season recovering from an ACL injury as the Rams amassed only five wins, missing out on the tournament. With Stewart back in the line-up the Rams feature one of the state’s tallest rosters combined with sisters Mary and Katie Butler. On Friday night Bangor served notice they are back to being a contender with their 54-52 overtime win at Edward Little. Emily Gilmore grabbed an offensive rebound and scored at the buzzer to provide the winning margin.
Weather has been one of the key features to the early high school basketball season. The state’s athletic administrators and assigners of officials in many cases have been busier than the players. Of the eight playable dates so far, three have involved postponements due to inclement weather. A number of teams, scheduled to begin their campaigns a week ago didn’t open until this weekend. The John Bapst girls travelled to Ellsworth Friday night for their season opener, having their first two scheduled contests postponed due to weather. The youthful Crusaders opened with a 51-37 victory over Ellsworth. John Bapst’s freshmen backcourt duo of Gracie Philippon and Crystal Bell combined for 27 points in the victory.
This past Tuesday’s freezing rain caused most games throughout the state to be postponed. In Houlton, however, a much anticipated girls match-up took place as Class B powerhouse Presque Isle took on the Shiretowners. Much of the build-up for the contest centered around getting a first look at Houlton’s 6 foot freshman point guard, Colleen Bouchard. Bouchard did not disappoint in her debut, but it was the visiting Wildcats who stole the show with their three-point shooting barrage. PI hit six three’s in the first period alone, accounting for their first six field goals in the contest as they opened with a 20-5 lead. Houlton at one point got as close as two but the Wildcats in the end pulled away to the 59-47 victory.
While anything can certainly happen and there is a lot of basketball to be played, Presque Isle and MDI appear to on a collision course to meet once again on the final Saturday of tournament week. The same appears to be true of Washburn and Fort Fairfield in class D.
Kudos go out to Houlton radio station WHOU for their outstanding coverage of Aroostook County basketball. For those of us stuck indoors on Tuesday night, their live video streamed coverage of the Presque Isle-Houlton game provided a much needed respite. Veteran play-by-play man Ken Holck along with Houlton boys coach Rob Moran are as professional as they come in the business. Station owner Fred Grant has looked to expand their offerings and last year added a second stream, covering northern Aroostook County.
Congratulations go out to Chris Woodside of Calais for picking up his first varsity coaching victory in the Blue Devils 75-65 win over Washington Academy Monday night. Houlton and WA have been mentioned as the preseason favorites in class C boys but the Blue Devils might have something to say about it before it’s decided.
Class A boys might be as wide open a race as we’ve seen in quite some time. The defending champion Hampden Academy Broncos opened the season dropping a five point decision at Brewer before picking up wins over Bangor and Brunswick.
Many schools around the holidays will be making special efforts in helping out the less fortunate in their communities. The MCI basketball teams are collecting non-perishable food items to benefit the Pittsfield Food Pantry. Their first drive was held last Thursday with the girls contest against Spruce Mountain. The boys will hold their food drive on Friday night when they host Winslow at 6:30. Admission for the game will be a donation of two non-perishable food items. Cash donations will also be accepted.