It’s tough enough making the better than two-hour drive from Jackman to the Augusta Civic Center. But the journey to the Western Maine Class D tournament each year for the Forest Hills boys and girls basketball teams is further hindered since there are only two baskets in the school gymnasium.
Most gyms have six hoops, which allow players to do individual or station work during practice. With just two baskets, coaches have to get creative.
“You do a lot of drills, shooting-wise at the beginning,” Forest Hills girls coach Mike LeBlanc said. “We do a lot of running drills so it feels more like a game anyway.”
One area where the Tigers feel the two-basket pinch is free-throw shooting. This week, LeBlanc took his players to the Skowhegan Recreation Department where his wife is director and there are six baskets on which to practice. He said they only make a couple of trips there a season.
“The biggest thing is probably our free throws,” he said. “I have stats from 1988 all the way up through and our highest percentage as a team is 63 percent.”
Several years ago, LeBlanc tried to get portable baskets brought into the gym — which has a curved roof and might not be able to accommodate six conventional baskets — but the request was turned down.
“We don’t have a lot of places to store anything either,” LeBlanc said. “We do what we have to do.”
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Madison seniors Dylan Price and Austin Kane each broke the same bone in their right hands in preseason and missed a few games. The two are the leading scorers for the Bulldogs which contributed to their slow start. They got back on track at midseason and helped the Bulldogs to a quarterfinal win against Hall-Dale on Monday night.
Although Price is fully healed, Kane is not. He re-broke the same bone in his right hand last week in a scrimmage against Valley.
“I went into the middle of the lane, a kid blocked a shot and it jammed my fingers and re-broke my hand,” Kane said.
Kane has stayed away from contact in practice and has applied ice to his hand six times a day. During games he wears a bandage and a brace. In Monday’s game he scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers. He was cleared to play by his medical specialist although that wasn’t the case the first time he broke it.
“The first time it was a little bit worse,” he said. “When I re-broke it, it didn’t break all the way.”
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Former Nokomis girls basketball coach Kori Dionne is doing color commentary for the girls games in Bangor on WZON-620 AM. Dionne was behind the microphone for four games Tuesday.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s different. It definitely isn’t anything I’ve given much thought about getting into, but it’s definitely fun.”
Dionne said she hadn’t seen any Class D games this season, so sounding like an expert analyst for those games — especially before the game begins — is a challenge.
WZON has three different play-by-play announcers for the girls games: Toby Nelson, Steve Carmichael and Wes Hart. Dionne said Nelson has interviewed her in the past before games she was coaching, and will joke with her about that during games.
“He throws some digs in at me — talks about my foot stomp,” Dionne said, “which makes it fun.”
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There are only three female head coaches among the 14 teams in Eastern Maine Class A and all three are in today’s semifinals. In the 2:30 p.m. game, Bangor coach Katie Herbine and her No. 2 seeded Rams take on Mt. Ararat coach Kelly LaFountain and her No. 3-ranked Eagles. In the 4 p.m. game, Karen Magnusson and her No. 9 Cony team face No. 4 Lawrence, coached by John Donato, the one remaining male coach in the tournament.