MONMOUTH — With all but two players returning from last year’s state championship team it’s little wonder Monmouth finds itself in the same position as it did 12 months ago — readying for another shot at a Gold Ball.

Tia Day, Hannah Anderson, Abbey Allen, Abby Ferland and Audrey Fletcher all played significant roles in the Mustangs’ march to their first Class C state title. They’ll be there again Saturday when Monmouth faces unbeaten Houlton.

Kaeti Butterfield and Destiny Clough will be there, too. Butterfield saw some action in last year’s state game but her role on the team has expanded significantly. Clough, who played on the junior varsity team a year ago, has emerged as the team’s top rebounder. Both these juniors are 5-foot-10 and substitute for one another, each playing about half the game.

“We’re a different team than we were last year because of our two big girls,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “They’ve added a different dynamic to our team with some height.”

Both Clough and Butterfield are versatile players who can rebound and score but broken down to its simplest terms, Clough’s strong suit is her rebounding ability while Butterfield can score.

Clough spent her time in the offseason getting in better shape through running and lifting weights and saw results during the summer.

“I noticed that I was getting a lot more boards than I was last year,” she said. “For me personally I want to try to get every single ball that comes my way and scoring-wise that’s a bonus for me.”

Clough averaged 12 rebounds a game this season while playing about 16 minutes a contest. She grabbed 18 rebounds in one game during a 16-minute span.

“She jumps,” Wing said. “She’s very strong but she gets off the floor, too. That’s huge in girls basketball. She gets definite rebounds and we get quick outlet passes and then we’re off.”

Butterfield comes off the bench, usually in the first four or five minutes of the game. She finished second on the team in scoring behind Day, averaging just over 10 points a game. She’s also an excellent free throw shooter and will represent Class C North in the free throw shooting contest at the McDonald’s All-Star game.

“I’ve always been a pretty good all-around shooter,” she said. “My dad’s helped me a lot with that ever since I started playing basketball.”

Just as Clough can score, Butterfield can also rebound, averaging 10 a game, second best on the team.

“She’s a tough matchup because she can go inside and she can step out to the three and hit the three, too,” Wing said.

As Clough did, Butterfield worked hard over the summer.

“I just kept working on all my skills and made sure I was getting stronger with the ball and stronger physically so I could pull down more rebounds and finish more shots,” Butterfield said. “I was also working on building up my stamina and being able to play for a longer period of time.”

Because they alternate for one another both Clough and Butterfield stay fresh throughout the game.

“Usually when I go in the game I’m pretty ready,” Butterfield said.

Wing said he’d like nothing better than playing his two junior forwards at the same time, but faces a dilemma this year on who to remove from the game.

“That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “I’d love to play them together and I’m looking forward to next year because we probably will.”

Both players are devoted to the game and spend most of their free time working at it. Clough drew the attention of coaches from Castleton University over the summer while playing for an AAU travel team and said she plans to attend the Vermont school.

“I want to go (there) and play basketball for them,” she said. “I also want to major in psychology and be a pediatric psychologist.

Butterfield hasn’t narrowed her collegiate choices yet but would definitely like to play basketball at the next level. For now, she’s living in the moment.

“It’s been the best couple of years of my life,” she said. “I love playing for this team. We’re a pretty well-rounded team, we care for each other and we all have each other’s backs.”

Playing the game at the Augusta Civic Center — the Mustangs played in Bangor for the state game last year — is an added bonus since they’ve played on the court many times and it’s a shorter drive for their fans.

“I’m really excited,” Clough said. “I actually, pretty surprisingly, don’t have any nerves. I’m just more excited to get out on the court and show how we as a team can play basketball. One of my main goals is to just get good boards.”

Butterfield feels the same way.

“A lot of us we’re not really nervous because we were in the game last year,” she said. “We just have to go out and play our game and just take care of the ball.”

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