It was the first day of winter sports practices, which for the Winthrop boys basketball team always means diving right in to intense defensive drills.

Coach Todd MacArthur, however, knew he had to scale things back a bit this time.

Only three days earlier, a chunk of his roster had just finished playing in the Class D South football final against Lisbon, and MacArthur knew those players needed a break more than they needed a few more sprints up and down the court.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s Jevin Smith crosses the goal line for a touchdown during Saturday’s game. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“You want to respect your athletes,” he said. “As a coach, you’ve got to know what their physical capabilities are and their mental capabilities. You have to gauge just how hard you can go, and you’ve also got to gauge if a certain player needs some time off.”

Winthrop wasn’t the only team in that position, as several squads dealt with dinged-up rosters and quick turnarounds from deep runs by the school’s football teams. MCI, which reached the Class C final, actually had the football season still going when the winter season started, while Lawrence and Winslow reached the B North and C North finals, respectively.

MacArthur pointed out that there’s a bright side to the situation: The basketball players are having successful football seasons, and that winning mentality can cross over to the hardwood. But at the same time, coaches can tell when those players need some time to flip the switch.

“I think mentally, you know,” said MacArthur, who counts Ryan Baird, Jevin Smith and Gavin Perkins among the football players on the roster. “I’ve seen a lot more mental breakdowns that normally don’t occur, more frustration. Tired legs always affect the mind.

“(Monday) was the first night that I felt like ‘All right, we’re back.’ ”

Josh Tardy at MCI has nine football players on his roster, and couldn’t even practice with them while the football team finished its season.

“I just met with them briefly (on the first day) and got them out of the gym and got them home. I basically said ‘I’ll see you guys after Saturday’s game,” Tardy said. “For the first week we looked like we could run a hell of a 2-on-2 league.”

Tardy said his team is at full strength now, but that he had to dial back the conditioning work in the early going.

“We’re mindful that they’re tired and worn-out,” he said, “so I didn’t go hard on the cardio. … I knew they had to get a lot of shots in, so that first week was a lot of shots in practice.”

MCI’s Isaac Bussell, left, battles Winslow defender Evan Bourget on Saturday in Hampden. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Lawrence’s Jason Pellerin has seven football players on his roster, including three projected starters in Dylan Coombs, Zach Nickerson and Nick Blaisdell. He said his team avoided any injuries, but that with such a tight turnaround, players always have to be mindful and honest about what they can handle.

“We try to be very honest and upfront with the football players that they need to be honest with us. No. 1, if they’re hurting, they should try to let us know, don’t try to be the tough guy too much,” Pellerin said. “Football’s very demanding, physically (and) emotionally. Sometimes it’s tough for the guys to turn that switch off. As a basketball coach, you have to be ready for that as well.”

Pellerin said that wasn’t as big an issue this year.

“I was extremely fortunate,” he said. “Their season ended on a Friday night, and Monday afternoon they were ready to go.”

Winslow’s Ken Lindlof said his team is at full strength now, but he too was mindful of the transition period. He made a deal with his team: Monday and Tuesday attendance was optional, but on Wednesday, the expectation was for everyone to be ready to focus on basketball.

Even so, he made sure he didn’t push too hard.

“There was a little more emphasis on basketball conditioning and shooting. … (Otherwise) there might be more scrimmaging and installing,” he said. “It’s kind of an individual and case-by-case basis.”

 

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The Skowhegan girls basketball team won’t have the target on their back that they had last year, when they were the clear favorite in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

And coach Mike LeBlanc isn’t about to complain about that.

“I think it’s going to be a fun year. The expectations probably around the league are going to be not so high on us,” he said. “(And) I have no problem with it. As long as we compete, that’s all I ask of the girls.”

Expectations are sure to take a dip after Skowhegan, 20-1 and an A North finalist last year, graduated its entire starting lineup. Promising pieces in sophomore Jaycie Christopher and senior Emma Duffy remain, but LeBlanc knows his group has some growing to do at the varsity level.

“If they compete and develop the way I think they’re capable of developing, we’ll be OK,” he said. “But it’s going to take a lot of time, probably halfway through the season before we have a total understanding of their roles.”

 

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Few girls basketball teams will have a smaller and younger roster than Temple this season. Coach Joe Rossignol, however, sees potential in his group.

The Bereans will look nothing like last year’s team. After carrying 14 players, 12 of which were juniors and seniors, Temple saw an offseason of graduations, transfers and other departures leave it with only eight players, three of which are eighth-graders.

“I guess the term we would use is a building year,” Rossignol said. “We’re starting at the beginning, and working on basics.”

That being said, Rossignol likes the ability and the mentality of the players he has. In early scrimmages, the Bereans’ athleticism and aggressive play have stood out, and Rossignol said he’s eager to see how that translates to the season.

“We need to maximize the fact that we’re small and quick,” he said. “Everything’s going to be run and gun. We will not stop on the court, it’s just going to be an aggressive and a relatively small team … and that’s good. I love that. That’s fun basketball, right there.”

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