When the Skowhegan Area High School girls basketball team hits the floor for the regional semifinals against rival Messalonskee on Wednesday, every member of the Indians will sport the No. 20 on their respective warmup shirts. The No. 20 on the special edition jerseys was the same No. 20 worn by Maddy Wilford, a student at Parkland, Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School where last week’s mass shooting left 17 people dead and many more wounded.

Wilford, the captain of the school’s basketball team, was one of those wounded. She was shot several times and remains in a fight for her health in a local Florida hospital.

The unspeakable tragedy was given a face — the face of an innocent student-athlete with her entire life still ahead of her — when President Donald Trump paid Wilford a bedside visit last Friday.

As parents and students across the nation watched in that familiar foggy haze of bewilderment — the one we’ve all become far too accustomed to in the wake of so many violent outbursts across the country scrolling through our television, tablet and smartphone screens — it hit home everywhere.

It certainly did in the western corner of Somerset County.

“We definitely talked about it,” Skowhegan senior Lindsey Warren said “We had some conversations about Maddy specifically. We’d seen her on TV, and we couldn’t stop thinking about how awful it was, how painful it must have been.


“What if it happened to us?”

The Indians, young but mature beyond the collective years of a team featuring only one senior and none among their starting five, wanted to do something. They wanted to reach out. They wanted to connect.

Most of all, they wanted to unite the basketball community.

“It hits close to home, especially with it being a basketball player,” Warren said. “It could happen to anybody. It could have happened to one of us. We wanted to do something to show how connected we are.”

The warmup shirts will be black — the Indians are encouraging fans to dress in black for the regional semifinal as part of a “Black-Out” at the Augusta Civic Center — with white lettering. On the front, outlines of Maine and Florida are connected by basketballs and a dotted line threading through the words “Fight Like Maddy.” On the back, the No. 20, with Parkland and Florida inside the zero, and the social media hashtag: “#BasketballersUnite” across the bottom.

The team is also trying to subscribe Wilford to the internet stream of their game against Messalonskee. Parents bought the shirts for the players and Brandi Ireland, aunt to Jordan Boone, a sophomore guard for Skowhegan, covered the costs associated with design and printing work.


The players were to have the shirts Monday night, hot off the presses.

Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc famously describes his team as “free-spirited,” a euphemism for “not always focused” or “concerned about other things.” On Wednesday, that might still be true, but LeBlanc is more than happy to let them focus on things that matter more than basketball.

Or, in this case, because of basketball.

“They’re free-spirited, yes, but this was a good cause. It says something about them that they’re more concerned about other athletes than what they were going up against themselves. They’re taking the focus off the game and putting it toward a real-life situation. I think that’s a great thing.”

“They’re really not about themselves,” added Kerri Everett, a member of the Skowhegan boosters. “This is their thing. They’re about everybody else.”

There will be no tournament appearance for Stoneman Douglas. Late Sunday afternoon, the Orlando Sun Sentinel reported that school officials had decided not to participate in their Class 9A quarterfinal game, effectively ending the team’s season far too early.


When Warren heard that Monday morning, she was emotional.

“It’s more for us to play for. It’s just more incentive,” Warren said. “That’s not a stretch at all. Knowing they’re not playing at all in a tournament, I want to go as far as we can. It’s like we’re playing for them.”

The No. 20 isn’t synonymous with instant sports celebrity, not in the way Larry Bird’s No. 33 was in New England, Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 was across Canada or Michael Jordan’s No. 23 was across the globe. But the Indians hope the No. 20 emerges as a source of strength.

Wilford’s unimaginable terror in the wake of the Parkland shooting hit home in Maine.

Against Messalonskee, the Indians will all be No. 20 in the program, No. 1 in all of our hearts.

If you have a heart, you’ll be rooting for them the way we’re all rooting for Parkland, Florida and the Stoneman Douglas High School community.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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