OAKLAND — Coming off a Class A state championship, Messalonskee High School girls basketball coach Keith Derosby has questions. Who is going to make up the scoring lost with the graduation of Sophie Holmes and McKenna Brodeur? How improved will the returning Eagles be? How will those returning players fit in new roles? Derosby knows the answers to those questions do not come on the first day of practice.

“It’s coming in and working hard. Don’t worry about who does what… Just everyone coming out and trying to do what they can do. We’re not focusing on what we did or who left, but forming our identity and focusing on that same culture,” Derosby said after his team completed its first practice of the season.

Monday was the opening day of practice for Maine’s high school winter sports season. Along with basketball, athletes across the state began workouts in ice hockey, wrestling, indoor track and field, swimming, and where there’s snow, skiing.

The Messalonskee boys basketball team also is coming off a regional championship, Since falling to Greely in the Class A state championship game in March, coach Peter McLaughlin has been eager to get back in the gym with his Eagles.

“I don’t think I’ve stopped chomping at the bit. Honestly, we had a solid summer. It was probably the hardest summer we’ve played up to this point, because I really wanted to challenge our youth and get a good idea of who we are and what we’ve built,” McLaughlin said.

Like Derosby’s girls team, the Messalonskee boys graduated a strong group of seniors, including Nate Violette, James Kouletsis, Griffin Tuttle, and Trevor McCray. McLaughlin said the returning players were as eager to practice as he was, and build on the success of last season.

“We return six players from last year, and they got a taste of what they wanted. We see each other in the hallway and kind of smile,” McLaughlin said.

The Messalonskee girls return a few key players from last season, including forwards Aly Turner and Gabrielle Wener. Many have been playing basketball in the offseason, Derosby said. Now it’s a matter of quickly readjusting to this team’s dynamic.

“We had 20-something kids playing fall ball in one league or another. But it wasn’t a regular routine, so it’s trying to get them back in that, getting used to my voice,” Derosby said. “For some of them, it’s getting them to relax a little bit and enjoy the moment. Four years goes by pretty fast.”

Like Derosby, McLaughlin wasn’t looking for answers to big questions during Monday’s practice.

“I know we’re going to make mistakes today. I want to make mistakes today. I want them going as fast as possible, so we get a realistic feel of who we are and what we’re going to be,” McLaughlin said. “We have 18 guys that want to put on that jersey that they saw play for a state championship last year, and they’re going to have to work for that.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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