Lawrence High School boys basketball coach Mike McGee saw it during pregame drills throughout the season. More than one opposing player would sneak a glance at the Bulldogs going through their warmups. Some opponents would flat out stare.

Which one’s Spencer Carey?

“He became an intimidating factor. Some games, you could see opponents looking at us,” McGee said.

There were plenty of players bigger than the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Carey, but few matched his combination of skill and size. Certainly, no player in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A played tenacious defense like Carey, who led the league with 3.2 steals per game.

“If (opponents) had a dominant big guy, I’d take him, just look to deny him the ball, and hopefully shut him down,” Carey said.

Carey averaged 14.9 points and five rebounds per game. He played his best basketball down the stretch and in the Eastern Maine Class A tournament, and was a semifinalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball award.

For his work in leading the Bulldogs to the Eastern Class A championship game, Spencer Carey is the Morning Sentinel Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Evan Worster of Forest Hills also was considered.

“Having four years of experience, I definitely wanted to set the example in practice first. A lot of guys don’t know the expectations that Coach McGee has,” Carey said. “We had a lot of first year players this year, so I just wanted to set the tone early and just be the leader that our team needed.”

Carey was a four-year varsity player for Lawrence, and a three-year starter. He ended his career with 923 points. For most of his first two seasons, Carey focused on defense. McGee implored him to shot more.

“He’s so unselfish, he passed up shots. What I tried to do his junior year, I told him ‘You’ve got to pick up your scoring,’ ” McGee said.

Added Carey: “I didn’t want to take the seniors’ spot or act like it was all about me. I just wanted the seniors to know that it was still their team, but at the same time, I had to do the job Coach wanted me to do.”

Carey was at his best when he used his strength to attack the basket.

“When I get lazy and settle for jump shots, that’s usually when Coach will take me out and let me know what I’m doing wrong. Grabbing rebounds for our team is my role,” Carey said.

In the Eastern Maine tournament, Carey stepped up his game at both ends of the floor. He upped his scoring to 15.3 points per game, and he played excellent defense on some of the best players in the league. In the semifinals, Carey scored 13 points, including nine in the second half, while defending Edward Little’s top scorer, Quin Leary. Carey held Leary to nine points.

“I love playing against Quin, because he’s a great player. I definitely came in focused with the mindset to shut him down,” Carey said.

Carey regularly defended the opponent’s best big player, and early in the season, McGee was concerned that taking on such a big task every game would wear Carey out. It wasn’t long before McGee realized that the bigger the challenge, the better Carey played.

“He needs a challenge. Playing the best player on the other team, he just came to life,” McGee said. “He struggled in blowouts, but when the game is on the line, he’s one of the best I’ve had.”

Carey’s basketball career is over. Next year, he’ll play football at the University of Maine.

“If he didn’t love football so much, I think you’d be looking at a college basketball player at the (Division) two or three level,” McGee said.

Carey will join the Black Bears for summer workouts and will play in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. He’ll always have fond memories of basketball.

“There’s relationships and bonds that I’ll have from basketball forever, especially with Coach McGee. He kind of took me under his wing. It’s definitely something I’m going to miss,” Carey said.