WATERVILLE — After years in the Maine Christian School Sports League, Monday afternoon marked Temple Academy’s first basketball games as a member of the Maine Principals’ Association.

Temple Head of School Denise LaFountain spoke briefly at midcourt with a microphone, then introduced two Temple Academy students who sang the national anthem. Then history teacher James “Bub” McSpadden took the microphone at center court and said a prayer.

For the record, Temple’s Kiara Carr hit a short baseline hook for the Bereans’ first basket, and scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Temple girls team defeated Greater Portland Christian, 56-52. The Temple boys lost to GPC, 58-48. More importantly, Temple had embraced a new level of competition, and the MPA had a new member, with a setting that is a bit different from what you’ll see at most central Maine high schools.

“Some of our kids drive, every day, an hour or more to get to this school,” Temple boys coach Tom Simmons said. “So that’s a tremendous commitment from the parents. They give, and they give, and they give, and they give, and they’re there for each other.”

Temple, on the West River Road in Waterville, is a Christian school that doesn’t really have a gym. There are no bleachers, just a row of chairs on one side and a U-shaped balcony, with students’ lockers behind the chairs. After the boys game, referee T.J. Halliday changed his clothes in Room 102, marked “KINDERGARTEN.”

The basketball court is smaller than regulation, and also completely carpeted, because the “gym” is the church sanctuary on Sundays.

“It’s our sanctu-asium,” LaFountain said with a smile. “It’s a sanctuary on Sunday, and during the week, it’s a gym. But we make do. We make it work.”

There’s also very little room between the court and the benches. About a minute into the girls game, Temple coach Mike Gorman took a deflected ball all off his face at close range, and his glasses were a casualty. Gorman coached the rest of the game without his glasses, then tried to glue them back together afterward.

“Everything’s blurry,” Gorman said. “I can’t see well without my glasses. I was worried that they were going to come out too nervous, wouldn’t be intense. But they came out intense right from the get-go — obviously, ’cause they hit me in the face with the ball.”

“I was nervous at first,” Carr said, “but I was really excited, because we got to play more competition.”

The small court also worked well with Temple’s full-court press, as Gorman used all 11 players in the first half and kept the press on throughout the game. The Bereans were beaten for a few full-court passes for layups, but also forced 44 turnovers.

Carr had 19 points in the first half, helping Temple offset big games by GPC’s Kyrie Austin (18 points, 14 rebounds), and Clarissa Jones (17 points, 10 rebounds). There’s a Bangor Auditorium-like effect with the small gym and little free space, so it sounded extremely loud late in the third quarter, when Veronica Rossignol hit two layups off Temple steals.

The fans also got loud in the final 30 seconds, with Temple up 54-52 and trying to run out the clock. Freshman Arielle Gott, who hadn’t played much during the game, made a layup with 10 seconds left to clinch the win.

“She’s a solid, aggressive player,” Gorman said. “If we needed a rebound in there (and) there’d be a fight for it, I’m confident she would get it. She’s very intense.”

The crowd was also up for the boys game, cheering off any made basket by Temple or foul on GPC. The visiting Lions led 48-33 after three quarters and held on for the win. Ethan Spaulding scored 14 points and Mason Jones added 12 for GPC, while Patrick Blaisdell and Jonathan Novak each had 10 for Temple.

Temple will also field baseball and softball teams under the MPA umbrella this spring. Unlike the basketball teams, those will be created from scratch. Gorman, who is also Temple’s athletic director, said the softball team will probably play at a local field, and the baseball team is still looking for a field and may have to play all its games on the road in 2015.

But for now, winter’s approaching. For Temple, that means road trips to places like Jackman and North Haven, and for the home games, a cozy gym with a true throwback small-town atmosphere.

“The fans are great, and they support the kids,” Simmons said. “We’re a small school. We’re a small fan base. (The City of) Waterville is not going to come out and watch us play, so we’re basically relying on students and parents. We’re a family, and we understand that there is more to this than just basketball.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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