Halfway through the high school basketball season the lines of demarcation have been drawn in Eastern Maine Class A. There’s no question defending state champion Hampden Academy belongs at the top. The Broncos are unbeaten and in a class by themselves.
“They start five guys and any one of those five could arguably be the best player on any one of (the other) teams,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said.
Maines sees a second tier comprised of Messalonskee, Edward Little, Bangor, Brunswick and Oxford Hills.
“Right now we’re definitely below them,” Maines said. “Your next group of teams is pretty much everybody else.”
Maines, however, pointed out that the third group has won or come close to winning several games against the second group.
“We had every opportunity to beat Oxford Hills and we were right there with Brunswick,” said Maines, whose Rams lost those games by one and six points, respectively.
The Rams were 3-6 going into Thursday night’s game at Bangor. They’re battling injuries to junior point guard Ben Leet, who has a sprained toe, and center Ben Lucas who has a leg injury. Lucas has come on strong after missing all of preseason.
“We’re getting the ball to him in better places,” Maines said. “When he’s off the floor we’re not nearly as good. We were plus-eight against Brunswick with him on the floor.”
Maines is still playing 12 players a night, usually in the first half, but his starters are getting more minutes. In a recent game against Mt. Blue, all five played 20 minutes or more while the next four played around 10 minutes.
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Richmond faces its toughest test Friday night at home against unbeaten Forest Hills. The defending Class D state champs are tough to key on, according to Richmond coach Jon Spear.
“They’re very balanced,” Spear said. “Really the key is just trying to play good defense and we can only let them get one shot.”
The Bobcats are 4-4 with their worst loss a 63-41 decision to Valley.
“We’ve had a couple of close games we’ve kind of let slip away,” said Spear who is carrying six freshmen, two sophomores and just one senior on his roster.
Spear is pleased with the leadership of senior Sean Bernier as well as the overall play of freshman Matt Holt. Scoring has been pretty evenly spread among Bernier, Holt, Mike Stewart and Cameron Emmons. Cody Tribbet, another freshman, has also played well.
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Erskine is winless but improving, according to coach Ben Willoughby. The Eagles dropped a 48-42 decision to Gardiner on Tuesday night and Willoughby said “we played them as good as we could play them.”
Senior Jared Gartley has been Willoughby’s most consistent player, no surprise since he is the team’s most experienced players. The rest of the roster is young and inexperienced. Junior Tyler Bailey has taken over some of the ballhandling duties while sophomores Josh Reed and Matt Clary are starting to contribute.
“They’re all young kids, other than Gartley,” Willoughby said. “They’re not discouraged. We know we’re offensively challenged and we need to handle pressure better. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
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Kents Hill showed a little rust in a 10-point loss to Brewster Academy this week shortly after returning form holiday break. Much of the team is new to one another and coach R.J. Jenkins, and has yet to jell.
“We’re pretty inexperienced in a lot of key positions,” Jenkins said. “We don’t always attack when we should attack.”
Jenkins said there have been some bright spots. Against Brewster, the Huskies pressed and cut a 15-point lead to six. Senior center Nelkas Kwemo has played well and sophomore point guard Trevor Guity has had some good moments. The team has struggled scoring but has a couple of good outside shooters in senior Daniel Sheppard and post-grad Trenton SirLouis.
“It’s too early to get frustrated,” said Jenkins, whose team is 1-2. “It usually takes until the end of this month until we’re clicking. I’m optimistic they’ll turn it around because they have a good attitude.”