Maranacook defenders Joe Albert, left, and Tim Worster converge on Skowhegan’s Collin LePage during the Class A/B final of the central Maine tournament earlier this month in Readfield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

It would be easy to reflect on what we didn’t get out of the 2020-21 high school boys basketball season. No state tournaments and the state championships that come with them. A regular season shortened from 18 games to 12, and for some schools fewer games than that.

We know that. We’ve been hit over the head with all of that. When looking back at the boys basketball season recently completed in central Maine, let’s instead look at what we did get. A handful of the best players in the state putting up historically good numbers. Great games in the regular season and in the central Maine tournament organized by Winthrop High School athletic director Joel Stoneton in an effort to give student-athletes a trophy for which to compete. One insanely talented team rolling over all comers.

Despite the obstacles presented by a once-in-a-century pandemic, the boys basketball season in central Maine was entertaining.

Let’s start with Maranacook. Led by Mr. Maine Basketball winner Cash McClure, the Black Bears showed no letdown after losing the 2020 Class B state championship game in double overtime to Caribou. With the trio of McClure, Casey Cormier and Tim Worster combining to average 57 points per game, the Black Bears offense never scored fewer than 68 points, often putting up at least 80 or 90 points.

After rolling through the regular season, the Black Bears didn’t let up in the regional tournament, beating three Class A opponents by at least 19 points. An 83-55 win over Gardiner in the quarterfinals. A 98-79 win over Messalonskee in the semis. An 87-63 win over Skowhegan for the title.

McClure averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals per game in winning Mr. Maine Basketball. He was not alone in central Maine in putting up a dominant season. Forest Hills senior Parker Desjardins joined elite company in the 2,000-career point club. With a 3-pointer at Greenville on Feb. 23, Desjardins became the 19th player in state history to reach the 2,000-point milestone. A finalist for Mr. Maine Basketball, Desjardins averaged 40 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for the Tigers this season.

Messalonksee’s Matt Parent was a semifinalist for Mr. Maine Basketball, averaging 19.8 points per game while shooting 42.1 percent from 3-point range.

Teams quickly adjusted to COVID-19 rules that included facemasks worn at all times and halftimes spent milling around one corner of the gym while the opponent went over midgame strategy at the other end. A handful of games throughout the season showed players can be at their competitive best, no matter the conditions.

Forest Hills’ Parker Desjardins, left, is pressured by Madison defenders Vern Werther (22) and Callen Franzose during a central Maine tournament game on March 9 in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

A Feb. 17 game between Forest Hills and Madison was one of the better regular-season games in recent seasons. Class D Forest Hills took an 88-85 win in the back-and-forth game, splitting the season series after Madison won at Forest Hills early in the season. Eight players scored at least 10 points. The Tigers and Bullodgs combined to make 15 3-pointers. Although both schools are in Somerset County, they never would have played each other were it not for the stressing of regional competition to limit travel this season.

Madison and Forest Hills met again in the semifinals of the central Maine Class C/D tournament, with Madison taking an 82-81 win. Neither team led by more than five points until Madison opened up a 78-71 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Tigers pulled within a point and had a chance to take a potential game-winning shot in the closing seconds, but Madison’s Cameron Cobb stole the ball to secure the win, sending the Bulldogs to Winthrop for the championship game.

Madison was in control of that championship game for much of the way, leading the Ramblers by 17 points with four and a half minutes to go. At that point, Winthrop mounted the best rally that only the few people in the gym and those watching the livestream got to see. The Ramblers closed the game with a 20-0 run, taking their first lead since the game’s first minute when Gavin Perkins sank a 10-foot jumper with 16 seconds left.

Perkins added a pair of free throws with 9. 9 seconds left, and Winthrop had a 52-49 wild come-from-behind win to claim the championship.

If nothing else was learned during this abbreviated, start-and-stop season, it’s this. A pandemic can make it harder to play a season, but it cannot dampen the competitive spirit once the game starts.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

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