Basketball squads ready for busy postseason
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — There is little doubt that Presque Isle and surrounding communities are basketball country. That enthusiasm, even in communities that are primarily rural and sparse, has paid dividends for the teams heading to the playoffs.
Nine of the 12 teams in The Star-Herald’s coverage area landed a spot in the Maine Principals’ Association basketball tournament, each looking to bring a gold ball home to its adoring hometowns.
The postseason begins on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and Wednesday, Feb. 12, with a series of preliminary-round games that will determine who will play in Bangor. For those who lose, it means a season ended and playoff hopes dashed. But for the lucky winners, it means the potential to make a mark on a statewide stage.
The Presque Isle girls finished third in Class B North with a 15-3 record. The Wildcats will get a bye before heading to the Cross Center in Bangor for a quarterfinal game at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.
In Class C North, the Fort Fairfield girls are the third seed with a 16-2 record, and Central Aroostook is the sixth seed with a 14-4 record. Fort Fairfield will play a prelim at home against Woodland (7-9) or George Stevens Academy (16-2) on Feb. 11. Central Aroostook will play a prelim at home against Piscataquis Community High School (9-9) also on Feb. 11.
The Washburn girls (9-9) ranked sixth and Ashland (8-10) is ranked eighth in Class D North. While Ashland will need to win a prelim against Jonesport-Beals (6-12) on Feb. 11 to move on, Washburn secured a place in the quarterfinals against Katahdin (13-5) in Bangor 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
Easton (1-17) did not qualify for the playoffs.
The Presque Isle boys (7-11), ranked 14th in Class B North, will not make the playoffs after a home loss to Caribou on Feb. 6.
In Class C North, the first-place Central Aroostook boys (14-4) did more than enough to earn a bye. CA will play its first Bangor game at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 against either Woodland (7-9) or Stearns (9-9). The Fort Fairfield boys (12-6) will play as the fifth seed in a prelim game at home against the No. 12 Penobscot Valley High School (8-10).
The sixth-place Easton boys (12-6) and eighth-place Washburn boys (6-12) both made the playoffs in Class D North. Easton will play third-place Van Buren (15-3) 9:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17 in Bangor. Washburn needs to play a prelim at home against ninth-place Greater Houlton Christian Academy (8-10) on Wednesday, Feb. 12. The No. 12 Ashland Boys (1-15) will not be heading to the postseason.
No. 3 Presque Isle (15-3) versus winner of No. 6 Winslow/No. 11 Caribou prelim — The Wildcats will play either the Black Raiders or the Vikings on Feb. 14 at 3:30 p.m. in Bangor. Presque Isle is 2-0 against Caribou this season, having beaten them by 10 points or more in both matches. Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson described Winslow, who Presque Isle has not played against this season, as the “sleeper of the tournament.” He said a match against Winslow would be difficult because of the team’s “strong, talented” guards and high-scoring players. No matter who it faces, Presque Isle will have sophomore Faith Sjoberg (averaging 13 points a game), freshman Anna Jandreau (averaging eight points a game), senior Maggie Castonguay (averaging seven points, five rebounds and two steals a game) and senior Libby Moreau (averaging six points, six rebounds and two steals a game).
No. 14 George Stevens Academy (7-11) at No. 3 Fort Fairfield (16-2) — The Tigers faced George Stevens Academy in a prelim game on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Longtime Fort Fairfield coach Larry Gardner said he was ready to get another chance to make it big in Bangor, no matter who he faces. He said George Stevens Academy — who the Tigers did not play during the regular season — represented a challenge for them, being among the best teams the team has played this season. Noting that George Stevens was a much larger school than Fort Fairfield, he said his team prepared for the “unknown factor” by strengthening fundamentals.
No. 11 Searsport (8-10) at No. 6 Central Aroostook (14-4) – While Central Aroostook will have its game in its Tuesday preliminary round at home, the Panthers faced an unfamiliar opponent in Searsport. Central Aroostook’s two double-digit scorers will help them as it takes on the Vikings. Central Aroostook senior Breann Bradbury (who got to 1,000 career points this season) is averaging 18 points a game, while junior Maci Beals is averaging 14. Kingsbury said all of his players were currently healthy and that it was working hard in practice to face Searsport.
No. 6 Washburn (9-9) versus No. 3 Katahdin (13-5) — The Beavers will take on the Cougars at 7 p.m. on Feb 15 in Bangor in what could be a tough match for Washburn. Katahdin defeated Washburn in both of its regular-season matchups — 48-22 at home on Jan. 4, and 51-25 on the road Jan. 25. Given that each match was decided by 26 points in Katahdin’s favor, Washburn faces a steep climb but not an impossible one. Washburn coach Jon Poisson said his team’s familiarity with Katahdin could help as they look to move on in Bangor.
No. 9 Jonesport-Beals (6-12) at No. 8 Ashland (8-10) — The Royals faced the Hornets in Ashland Feb. 11 in a prelim game. While both teams have losing records, the prelim will decide who is to take on undefeated first-seed Southern Aroostook 3:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in Bangor. Ashland has a better record than Jonesport-Beals, but it will need to size up with an unfamiliar squad, as neither team played each other in the regular-season.
No. 1 Central Aroostook (14-4) versus winner of No. 8 Woodland/No. 9 Stearns prelim — The Panthers will take on either the Dragons (7-9) or the Minutemen (9-9) in a quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Central Aroostook Coach Jason Woodworth said that while his team is unsure of who its opponents would be, the Panthers wouldn’t “take anything for granted” in Bangor. Central Aroostook has some dominant players, all of whom Woodworth said were healthy, including 1,000-point scorer senior Brayden Bradbury.
No. 12 Penobscot Valley (8-10) at No. 5 Fort Fairfield (12-6) — The Tigers take on the Howlers at home in a prelim match Wednesday. Fort Fairfield Coach Vaughn McLaughlin said his team would be working on its shooting in preparation for the game, and would also test out new defensive schemes that will adjust to Penobscot Valley’s strengths. McLaughlin said his top offensive players were Dawson Watson, who he also noted had shown great floor leadership, Colby Langner and Kadin Barnes. He credited the team’s defensive prowess to the intensity of Grayden and Chase Griffeth, who happen to be cousins.
No. 6 Easton (12-6) versus No. 3 Van Buren (15-3) — The Bears will take on the Crusaders in a quarterfinal 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in Bangor. Easton coach Bradley Trask described Van Buren as a solid team that is disciplined both offensively and defensively. Trask said that the offensive stats for his team were pretty balanced, with there always being the potential for a different leading scorer every night. As he makes it to Bangor in his first season with Easton, Trask said his team’s hard work provided them the opportunity to show its strengths to a wider audience.
No. 9 Greater Houlton Christian Academy (8-10) at No. 8 Washburn (6-12) — Washburn will take on Greater Houlton Christian Academy in a prelim game Wednesday. Whoever wins the game will get the chance to play the undefeated Jonesport-Beals (16-0) in the quarterfinals 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17. Washburn coach Michael Hartford said that Greater Houlton Christian Academy had shown great potential this season, squaring up with many challenging opponents. While Hartford said it would be a challenging match, he felt the Beavers would prevail if the team played to its true potential. Aidan Churchill leads Washburn in scoring, averaging about 13 points and two steals per game. Spectators should also watch Devin Dionne, who is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds and Colby Hewitt, averaging nine points and four rebounds.