Cony senior Simon McCormick is the Central Maine Boys BasketballPlayer of the Year. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Cony boys basketball fans knew to get to the games early the last few seasons.

If you missed so much as five seconds, you were probably missing Simon McCormick making some sort of play.

You’d miss a tone-setting 3-pointer. Or a quick steal and score. Or a lightning-quick dish to a wide-open teammate in the corner.

Few players in the state this year were the difference-makers for 32 minutes and 84 feet that McCormick was. And few played that way as frenetically, as aggressively, and yet as efficiently as the Cony point guard did.

McCormick finished with averages of 22.1 points, 6.3 assists and 6 steals per game, and led the Rams to the Class A North championship game. It was his second straight year leading the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in steals and assists.

For his performance, McCormick is the Central Maine Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Maranacook’s Cash McClure, a junior, was also considered.

“He’s just really, really good,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “I take Simon over everybody. Give me a pick of any kid in the state, I’m taking Simon.”

Cony senior Simon McCormick celebrates after sinking a long three pointer during a Jan. 18 game in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

McCormick was named a semifinalist for the Mr. Maine Basketball award, he reached 1,000 career points in the final game of the regular season, and he led Cony to within a possession of the state championship game after the team made three straight trips to the regional semifinals.

“I didn’t feel a lot of pressure,” McCormick said. “I knew either leadership-wise or playing-wise, guys were going to step up each and every game, no matter who.”

He had a good supporting cast, but the 5-foot-6 McCormick was the undisputed engine of the Cony team. His hyperactive style of pressure defense and fast-paced play as the primary ball-handler on offense were perfect fits for the Rams’ up-tempo style. McCormick always seemed a step ahead of the action, and you never saw him standing idle on the court, waiting for a play to develop.

He played that way from the beginning, when he was a five-foot tall freshman, and Maines said he built a kind of celebrity within the school and community.

“People got to know who he was because our team was good, we’re in the paper, every one of our games is on local TV, so people could see him,” Maines said. “And he’s very relatable. He’s always smiling, he’s a little bit fancy. … He wants people to have eyes on him. He thrives on that stuff.”

As much of a whirlwind as he could be, McCormick never felt he was playing out of his element.

“We dictate the pace, and we want it as high as we can get it while staying in control,” McCormick said. “But it never really went through my head. This was my fourth year doing it, so it just was natural. … The faster you play, the more fun it is to watch, and I think people liked it.”

McCormick added more to his game as his career progressed. Originally, when he was always the smallest player on the court, he had a limited offensive game and knew he had to make up for it in the blue-collar elements of the sport – playing defense, jumping passes and taking charges.

“I wasn’t going to be that big scorer, I wasn’t going to be a big rebounder,” he said. “I feel like defense was where I could make my most impact and bring the most energy to the team.”

The last two years, however, he did become that scorer. McCormick got stronger, and in so doing became more versatile as well.

“In the past, going to the rim wasn’t my style,” he said. “But this year, I felt like my pull-up jumper and attacking the rim and finishing with contact were something I really needed to do.”

Maines saw a more efficient offensive player this season.

“His shooting percentage going into this year was below 50 percent. This year, he shot almost 55 percent,” he said. “His pull-up game improved, catch-and-shoot threes, he’s got a really good jump shot. He put a lot of time into it.”

He scored a lot of those points when they mattered most. It was common to see McCormick raise his game in the second half or fourth quarter with Cony needing an extra push to rally past or finish off an opponent. In a 92-89 win over Maranacook, McCormick had 19 points in the fourth. In an 81-76 loss to Hampden, he scored 16 in the third.

“I think it was just having an aggressive mentality,” he said. “For the first three quarters, I’d see how the game was playing out. … I would see where the team needed me, and I turned up the aggressiveness in the late moments, trying to rally the team and trying to bring the energy up.”

That ability to rise to the challenge will serve him well at the next level. McCormick will play next year for Bates College in Lewiston, and he thinks he’s still got even more room to grow.

“I’m really excited to go to Bates, play for coach (Jon) Furbush and see what I can do,” he said. “I feel like I can play with that next level group of guys. They don’t really know how good I am right now. I don’t really know how good I am right now.”

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