The Thomas College women’s basketball team continues to learn. The Terriers opened their North Atlantic Conference schedule this weekend, beating Green Mountain by 25 and losing to Castleton by 28.

“The weekend, I thought, went OK,” Thomas coach Ted Rioux said. “We beat a team that we should beat, and then we lost to a very good team.”

Senior Karin Bird (24.2 points per game) has been the only big-time scoring option for Thomas. Bird leads the Terriers with 97 points, which is more than three times as many as anyone else on the squad — and Bird missed two games. Sophomore Elizabeth Goodall is second on the team in scoring at 5.2 ppg.

The good news is that even after only six games, Rioux is seeing a lot of improvement. He is currently using nine to 11 players per game.

“Every single day,” Rioux said, “there’s someone new who steps up and we say, ‘Ooh, we haven’t seen that before.’ I wish we weren’t stopping for about three weeks (for winter break), because I’m starting to see people come out of their shell.”

Thomas graduated two of its top three scorers from last season, and Rioux is putting in a new offense.

“What I’m trying to teach them right now is to learn to play on their own,” Rioux said. “I don’t want to run a lot of structured, organized plays. We’re asking them to use their basketball knowledge.

“We’ve been trying to install the principles of a motion, and you don’t build a motion in a month. (But) you can see daily, it’s starting to happen.”

Junior Ashley Matchett of Skowhegan is second on the team in points per minute, with 4.0 ppg in only nine minutes per game. Last winter, Matchett averaged 8.3 ppg and shot 38 percent on 3-pointers. She’s been slowed by knee problems this season.

“Skill-wise, she’s as skilled as we have on that team,” Rioux said. “If we can get three-to-four-minute spurts out of her, those minutes are so productive.”

* * *

The University of Southern Maine men’s basketball team is off to a 5-2 start, but it could be even better. In the fourth game, point guard Mike Poulin, a Maranacook Community High School graduate, went down for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

“He came to a jump stop,” USM coach Karl Henrikson said. “When he hit the floor, the knee just gave out. Entering his sophomore year, he broke his arm, so he missed the entire season as well.”

Within days of Poulin’s injury, his sister, Katie, a point guard and senior at Maranacook, tore her ACL and also is out for the season.

Poulin was averaging 10.2 points and 2.5 assists per game before the injury. Without him, USM lost to St. Joseph’s by two in overtime and by five to Eastern Connecticut State, so it’s reasonable to assume Poulin’s presence might have made the difference in both games.

“You hate to say that, because I think the kids who have filled in for him have done a very adequate job,” Henrikson said. “But when you lose a player of that caliber, it’s very tough to replace.”

Henrikson said Poulin is handling the setback well. He will be starting graduate school next year but still hopes to play for USM.

“He’s a rock,” Henrikson said. “It’s never, ever, ever about him. He’s one of those people, when you speak with him, it’s about what’s going on in your life, not necessarily what’s going on in his life. I think that’s the way most good leaders are.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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