University of Maine forward Blanca Millan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season, returned as a fifth-year senior during the 2020-2021 season and had another season for the history books in Orono. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file photo

A few random thoughts before Daylight Savings Time flings me an hour into a dystopian future…

The season ended a few games earlier than the University of Maine women’s basketball team hoped or planned. Friday’s 64-60 loss to Stony Brook in the America East conference championship feels abrupt. With five seniors, the Black Bears were built to return to the NCAA tournament and possibly advance through a round, maybe two. A good Stony Brook team, which beat the Black Bears twice in three games this season, is a worthy conference champion.

The Black Bears should be commended for the work they did to get to this point. Not the on the court effort, that is a given. This has been a season in which teams across the nation have spent as much time dodging a Covid-19 outbreak as they have practicing offensive sets. The UMaine women’s basketball team had no positive coronavirus tests during the season.

Some of that is crazy luck. Plenty of people who have worked extremely hard at doing the right thing have ended up catching this awful disease. But you make your choices make your luck, too. The Black Bears focused on their classes and basketball, and that was pretty much it. Teams across the nation haven’t been so lucky.

This week, men’s basketball teams from Duke, Virginia, and Kansas were forced to withdraw from their conference tournaments when Covid-19 struck their programs. Maine’s own conference, America East, saw women’s teams at Vermont, Maryland-Baltimore County, Binghamtom, and Hartford unable to complete the regular season because of outbreaks. The Black Bears saw their counterparts in the men’s basketball program shut it down when Covid-19 made it impossible to play.

The end of the season marks the end of the careers of one of the best classes in Maine women’s basketball history. Blanca Millan and Fanny Wadling returned from season-ending injuries in 2019-2020 for a fifth season. Millan, a finalist for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year, cemented herself in Black Bears history by winning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for the second time, the first player in conference history to win both awards twice. We won’t wait long to see Millan’s 22 among the numbers retired by the Black Bears…

Advertisement

Give every high school athletic director in central Maine a hand for working hard to give student athletes a winter sports season. They were planning this season as coronavirus cases in Maine spiked, and while some teams and schools had to shut down at times to deal with an outbreak, they made it through.

The season ended with conference championships in skiing and swimming, and fantastic central Maine tournaments in basketball and ice hockey. Three of the four basketball championship games played Thursday and Friday were tight games. Players parched for competition embraced all the rules — things like wearing masks throughout the game and facilities devoid of fans — and competed with enthusiasm.

The news that the Maine Principals’ Association expects the spring season will be as normal as can be is the best news to hit Maine high school sports in more than a year. The 2020 spring season was lost to the pandemic. It would be heartbreaking to see another spring disappear. Things are starting to turn for the better…

Cam Newton. Huh. OK.

Nobody thought Newton was the answer to the New England Patriots quarterback questions after the 2020 season. His effort was there, his leadership was there, and by all accounts Newton was a perfect teammate. His injured shoulder made it impossible for Newton to make throws every NFL quarterback has to make. That was the problem. Nice guys don’t always finish last, but nice guys who can no longer throw the football don’t last as quarterbacks.

Newton threw just eight touchdown passes last season. Three of them came in the meaningless season finale against the New York Jets, an opponent that epitomizes meaningless.

Advertisement

Maybe Newton’s shoulder will continue to get stronger as he put that injury in his rearview mirror. Maybe a full offseason working with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will give Newton and the Patriots time to revise the offense to better fit his skill set. Maybe a Patriots team flush with cap space will provide Newton with more talented weapons, wide receivers and tight ends who will get open more often and some help on the offensive line to give everybody more time and space. Maybe Bill Belichick will draft a quarterback in the first round, a young guy the team can groom to step into the position in a season or two, a guy Newton can mentor. Maybe Belichick will sign another veteran to compete with Newton for the job.

That’s a lot of maybes.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Comments are not available on this story.