Houlton girls eye strong second half of season

Gloria Austin, Special to The County
12 years ago

The flu bug, along with minor injuries, are plaguing the Houlton varsity girls team, which is 3-3 and currently three spots out of the playoff picture since only the top 11 teams qualify for the tournament in Class C girls.
    “The flu has taken a toll on our energy levels and it’s not over yet,” said Houlton coach Shawn Graham.
Saturday night at Alumni Gymnasium, the visiting Stearns Minutemen were able to hang around for most of the first half.
“It was another day with lots of sickness,” explained Graham. “But, we were able to rotate 12 kids in and out of the game to give everyone some quick breaks.”
At halftime, the Lady Shires had built a 33-25 advantage and then outscored Stearns 19-8 in the second half for the 52-33 victory.
“Given the conditions, I felt the girls gave me every ounce of energy they had in them,” Graham said.
Tori Hanson led the way with 12 points for Houlton, while teammates Marina Cameron and Katie Condon tossed in 10 points apiece. Condon grabbed 10 rebounds and Natalie Hill scored eight points for  the winners.
“We had good offensive balance,” Graham noted. “I think we’re getting better with each game and eventually I believe we will make a run. We’ve got a combination of both upperclassmen and underclassmen, but we only have three players who saw significant varsity minutes a year ago.”
Last Thursday in East Millinocket, Graham said his players got off to a “very slow start.”
“We didn’t come ready [to play] the kind of physical game that it was,” he added.
The Lady Shires (2-3) nearly dethroned the undefeated Schenck Wolverines (6-0), but, Olivia Lewis’ layup with 22.5 seconds remaining put Schenck in the lead and took them to a 47-46 win.
To open the game, the Wolverines built a 19-3 lead, but Houlton came back in the second period, outscoring Schenck 19-5 to cut the lead to two points at halftime. At the end of the third, the score was deadlocked at 34-all.
The score stayed tied 43-all with just 1:39 left in the game. Schenck went ahead on Katie Stanley’s two free throws, but Houlton’s Hanson answered those points with 40 seconds to go after scoring on an offensive rebound. Then Schenck’s Kristen Thompson got the ball, drew Houlton defenders out, and found an open Lewis on the low block for the game-winner.
Schenck’s Morgan Thompson scored a game-high 18 points, while Stanley tossed in 11 and Kristen Thompson seven. For Houlton, Cameron finished with 15 points; Condon, 10 and Hanson, nine.
Graham said his unit shot 19 for 28 from the free-throw line, which he called respectable, but they did miss a few key ones in the fourth.
“The areas that we need to continue to work on are boxing out, getting a few more offensive rebounds, foul shooting, rotating plus communicating a little better on defense,” explained Graham. “We’ve been beat on the weak side too many times for easy baskets.”
Graham said his team is yet to play their best basketball.
“Give us until mid-season with a few more games under our belt and I strongly feel we’ll come around,” he said. “We just need to be patient and learn from our mistakes. We’ve got a couple big games this week with Mattanawcook on Tuesday and at Lee this Saturday, both teams that are currently just ahead of us in the Heals.”