Results have been mixed so far for a young Skowhegan team that includes nine freshman, including three who start.

The Indians stand at 4-4 in Class A North following Tuesday night’s home loss to Brewer. But don’t expect the rebuilding process to take too long. First off, the freshmen can play. Annie Cooke is the leading scorer and Sydney Ames is adapting nicely at point guard.

“They played a lot in fifth and sixth grade,” first-year coach Mike LeBlanc said of his freshman group. “They’re more athletic than kids their own age.”

LeBlanc comes to Skowhegan after several successful years at Forest Hills, where he guided the Tigers to a Western D title in 2014. A Skowhegan-area resident, he no longer makes the commute to Jackman. LeBlanc also works in the Skowhegan school system as a physical education teacher in grades 1-3. This year’s team is still adapting to LeBlanc’s style and terminology.

“Up there I was established,” he said of Forest Hills. “(This year’s team) is learning and hearing it for the first time. Our biggest concern is developing the whole program and just trusting in each other.”

The program is developing nicely. LeBlanc runs a clinic for younger players every Saturday morning with the help of his varsity players. The numbers in the lower grades are already good — 60 girls in grades 1-4 and another 45 in grades 5-8.


“There’s a lot of support,” LeBlanc said. “The community is starting to come around.”

LeBlanc admits he’s not a big strategist but he has the Indians running, pressing and sharing the ball. As one might expect, the team has shown some youthful inconsistency.

“At times we play phenomenal basketball,” Leblanc said.

Against Gardiner, the Indians trailed 21-8 in the first quarter, then rallied to score 25 points in a row before eventually losing late in the game.

Tracey Swanson is one of two seniors on the team and is a captain and starter. She’s set the tone for a group still in the tournament hunt.

“Tracey’s been spectacular,” LeBlanc said.


The Indians, who stand eighth in the Class A North standings, will learn a bit more about themselves during a killer stretch of games that begins at Nokomis on Tuesday. Winslow, Lawrence and Messalonskee follow on the schedule.

• • •

Temple Academy was 3-2 heading into Wednesday’s Class D contest against Kents Hill. The Bereans return four starters from a team that finished 8-10 last year in its first year of Maine Principals’ Association competition.

“It’s going pretty good,” coach Mike Gorman said of the move to the MPA. “We’re trying to make a decision if we want to move into a conference.”

Junior Kiara Carr is the team’s top scorer and go-to player, and returns to the lineup along with senior Isabelle Foshay, junior Veronica Rossignol and sophomore Selam Heinrich. Delaney Carr, one of three eighth-graders on the team, is a key player off the bench while freshman Olivia Baker gives the Waterville school decent size in the paint.

So far, Temple has beaten Bangor Christian, Highview Christian and Islesboro. The team dropped a close one to Hyde and was beaten soundly by Forest Hills, a team it meets Tuesday at Colby College.


“We’re getting better,” Gorman said. “When we play good defense we win. We’re learning to play defense and we’re learning to rebound.”

• • •

Erskine fell to 2-6 in Class A North following Tuesday’s loss to Waterville. With the exception of losses to Winslow and Lawrence, the Eagles have been in every game.

“In some aspects it’s going in the right direction,” said second-year coach Mitch Donar of the school’s program. “Our collective defense has gained some strides. They’re buying into creating some chaos. The more possessions the better for us.”

Senior guard Mallory Chamberlain has been the team’s most consistent threat but scoring has been spread out and it’s rare for anyone to reach double figures. The Eagles compete in Class A this season after MPA reclassification. The move means the team faces a tougher schedule.

“We’re one of the smaller schools,” Donar said. “The first day of summer basketball I put a box of tissues at half-court and told them to get their crying out of the way.”


Donar said the school brought back their summer camp, which he believes will yield results in the near future.

“We’re just got to get better every day,” he said.

• • •

After spending a couple of seasons coaching the freshman boys at Winslow, Jack Nivison is facing an entirely different experience in his first year as Kents Hill girls coach. Over half the team’s 14-player roster is made up of international students, many of whom have never played basketball. Nivison, a recent Colby College graduate, played three years of varsity ball at Winslow and finds himself reviewing fundamental with some team members that he learned in junior high or earlier.

“This is kind of a unique opportunity where I can mold these players,” Nivison said.

The Huskies, who were 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s game against Temple, do have some talent. Senior transfer Catherine Sanborn was a three-year starting point guard for Maranacook, which last year reached the Class C state championship game.


“She’s fantastic in terms of skill and basketball IQ,” Nivison said.

Junior Nina Fulmer and Becca Gibbs, both from central Maine, return to the starting lineup while Catherine Gibbs and McKensi Matula are also from the area. Sophomore Leah Herbin has shown some promise on the boards and is working on her post moves, Nivison said.

The Huskies are still adjusting to playing defense. They lost handily to Hebron in the preseason then beat them in a regular season rematch after going from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone. The team competes in Class C South but plays only nine regular season countable games. They’ve picked up extra games against Gould Academy and teams from New Hampshire and Canada.

“We kind of take it on a game-to-game basis,” Nivison said. “We’ve been in every game we’ve played.”

The Huskies historically are unable to practice over the holiday break since many of the players head home to China, Japan, Nigeria and other points.

“I gave them our playbook and encouraged them to do some cardio,” Nivison said.

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