Maranacook coach Jeannine Paradis watched Houlton in the Eastern C final and doesn’t know what to expect the Shiretowners to do on defense. Houlton coach Shawn Graham has watched Maranacook play six games, and he also doesn’t know what to expect from his opponent on defense.

Paradis usually has the Black Bears running a press, although the alignment might change before and after the other team reaches halfcourt. Likewise, when the teams meet for the Class C girls basketball title at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Paradis expects to be making adjustments on the fly.

“I watched the final and it’s really tough to see what type of defense that they might play,” Paradis said. “Both teams didn’t press. They both fell into a halfcourt defense. It wasn’t until in the fourth quarter when Dexter pressed them a little bit, so it’s really hard to judge that. Plus, we know when we watch things on TV, it doesn’t seem as fast as it was when you’re on the floor.”

Houlton is 19-2, with both losses to Eastern B champion Presque Isle, and allowed 34 points per game in the Eastern C playoffs. Maranacook (18-3) did not face any Class C teams during the regular season, but rolled through the Western C tournament by allowing just 33.3 points per game.

“They’re very quick,” Graham said. “They’re athletic, and they work extremely hard on defense.”

When applying their full-court press, the Black Bears often force teams to have to throw over Christine Miller and Liz D’Angelo, both of whom stand about 5 foot 11. Graham admits to being concerned about Maranacook’s pressure, and he further admits it’s an uncommon feeling for him this winter.

“I didn’t worry about handling pressure all year, because typically we have three point guards,” he said.

The Shiretowners won Eastern C without any seniors on the team. Graham said it’s a combination of returning last season’s two leading scorers (juniors Natalie Hill and Katie Condon), a great freshman class, and some additional help when a few players transferred from Greater Houlton Christian (which didn’t field a team this season because of numbers). Among the players from GHC, Rylee Warman is a starter and Makayla Watson is the second player off the bench.

And of course, when you talk about Houlton’s freshmen, the pearl of that class is 5-foot-11 guard Kolleen Bouchard, who averaged 17.7 points per game in the Eastern C tournament. Bouchard’s brother, Kyle, plays for the Houlton boys and is one of three finalists for the state’s Mr. Basketball award.

“They come from a basketball family,” Graham said. “Her mom was a great player in the late 80s for the Houlton girls under John Donato (the current Lawrence coach).

“I think the Miller girl will be a good matchup on Bouchard,” Graham added. “They’re very similar players. They handle the ball well. They’re post players. They can do anything.”

Whether it’s with her shooting or passing, Miller is the focus of Maranacook’s offense. Still, one reason the Black Bears have made it further than ever this season is that they are versatile on offense. D’Angelo, Sarah Clough, and Catherine Sanborn are also genuine scoring options. That really hit home in the final minutes of the Western C final against Dirigo.

“We definitely wanted to focus this year on having more kids who could score, so that teams couldn’t just focus on one player,” Paradis said. “I think, in the past, that’s what’s been our issue. We always didn’t have a consistent scoring component other than one or two players, and this year, we have four or five kids who can really step up and put up some big numbers, whether it’s Liz putting back under the basket, Sarah shooting some threes, Catherine, or Christine. Even Sage (Hyland) and Krissy (Hall) showed that they could do some stuff in the fourth quarter.”

Since the tournament began, Maranacook has led at halftime by 13, 18, and 12 points. Even if the same thing doesn’t happen Saturday night, Paradis is confident in Maranacook’s resilience.

“We’ve come from behind a couple of times at halftime to pull out a big win,” she said. “We were down at halftime against Oceanside and we ended up winning by 20. We were down against Medomak and went into triple overtime. We really have been showing that we refuse to lose, so we’re going to fight to the very end of the game.”

Randy Whitehouse contributed to this report

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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