Katie McAllister is seven games in as the head coach of the Monmouth Academy girls basketball team. With a 6-1 record, it’s fair to say that McAllister has acclimated quickly to the Mustangs, and vice versa.

“Everything is going pretty smooth,” McAllister said. “It’s quite a relief to see how the girls are adjusting and picking up what I’m saying. It’s a good turnaround. Working better and flowing better than I thought. Since it is my first year coaching, I wasn’t sure how the girls would react to my vision and my style of play. But they really jumped on board and it’s showing.”

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some bumps in the road. This is the first high school coaching job for McAllister, a Gardiner graduate who scored more than 1,000 points during her collegiate career at Thomas College. For the Mustangs, this is their third coach in the past three years, though the team has continued its consistent success regardless. Monmouth has made nine consecutive trips to the Class C playoffs, with state title wins in 2017 and 2018. Last year, the Mustangs finished 15-5, falling to North Yarmouth Academy in the quarterfinals.

“The first couple of weeks were definitely rocky,” McAllister said. “We started working from the ground up. Basically, I went into it assuming they knew nothing about basketball, and grew from there. I think it was pretty beneficial, to go back to the basics and start from the bottom. It definitely took them a few weeks to try to understand what I wanted to do.”

McAllister has changed up the tempo of the Monmouth offense and has used game tape to help players improve some techniques in their game. The strategy has been working. Since their lone loss to undefeated Winthrop on Dec. 11, the Mustangs have won four straight games. Monmouth is currently sixth in the C South standings. Seniors Audrey Fletcher and Libby Clement have been two of the early offensive standouts.

“We’re looking to push (the ball down the floor) all the time, so we’re totally buying into that,” McAllister said. “We’re getting the concept of looking (around on offense), passing is faster than running and dribbling. They’ve totally bought into that concept. Some struggles would definitely be aggression and decision-making.”

McAllister has also become a fan of the Mountain Valley Conference and how competitive the other teams are in the conference. She specifically cited Monmouth’s Jan. 4 victory over Mt. Abram. A close battle for three quarters, the Mustangs finally closed the game out, outscoring the Roadrunners 21-8 in the fourth for a 43-29 victory.

“Some of my girls overlooked them as a competitor,” McAllister said. “(Mt. Abram’s) record doesn’t reflect the same as ours. But at the end of the third, score was 22-21 (in favor of Monmouth)… That’s what excites me about this conference, not every game is going to be a blowout. Anything can change any given night. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Monmouth hosts Mountain Valley in its next contest Tuesday.

 

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After finishing with a 20-1 record and a trip to the A North final last year, it was expected that Skowhegan would fall back in the pack after losing an all-senior starting lineup.

There have been bright spots for Skowhegan, but the team has also shown its share of growing pains. After starting the season 3-2, Skowhegan has gone 1-2 in its last three games, including a 54-40 loss to Gardiner last week.

“I thought we were ahead of schedule coming into tonight,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said after the loss. “Tonight was probably a little bit of a setback. I don’t think we played very well. Hats off to them defensively on Jay (Jaycie Christopher) and all that, but I don’t think we moved the ball the way we’re capable, in getting her open shots. She didn’t get many open shots tonight. And probably credit Gardiner for that, but I just think we need to do a better job of listening and making the plays we need to make.”

Skowhegan has had bright spots, specifically sophomore guard Christopher, who has been the team’s top player so far this season. Christopher scored 40 points and had 21 rebounds in a 63-46 win over Erskine on Dec. 20. Against the Tigers, Christopher scored 20 points and had 13 rebounds, but had a difficult time finding open looks offensively.
“(Gardiner) definitely limited her, and they contested every shot,” LeBlanc said. “That’s a great job by them. I think we didn’t get her enough open looks, and you can credit their defense. But I think, too, it was a lack of execution on our part.” 
Skowhegan is currently eighth in the Class A North standings and hosts No. 3 Messalonskee (6-3) on Tuesday.
• • •
Winthrop hasn’t had much trouble jumping out to an 8-0 record, good enough to be the No. 1 team in the C South standings.
With the exception of a 60-53 win over Monmouth on Dec. 11, the Ramblers have won by double-digits in each of its other six wins. Though Winthrop has rolled early, the team may be entering its toughest week so far this season.
After topping Wiscasset 62-8 on Monday, the Ramblers host No. 2 Boothbay (6-1) on Wednesday and hit the road to play Oak Hill (6-2) — the No. 1 team in B South — in a crossover game Friday.
Aaliyah WilsonFalcone has been the Ramblers’ top offensive player, though Jillian Schmelzer, Natalie Frost and Madison Forgue have all shown double-digit scoring potential.
Drew Bonifant contributed to this story.

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