With the completion of the regular season, Houlton High School girls and boys are secured into the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Maine Classes B-C-D Tournament Feb. 15-23 at the Bangor Auditorium.
Other high school teams are now in the midst of playoff games to determine if they advance to tournament play.
The Houlton Shiretowners reached the top spot in Class C with a 17-1 record. They lost their last game of the season in Caribou to mar their perfect record.
“It was a tough game,” said Houlton coach Rob Moran. “We had two chances to tie the game. We didn’t play well and Caribou played great defense. That is part of the reason we didn’t play well.”
The Shires, according to Moran, had two “really good” shots to tie the game, but the Shires “weren’t able to knock them down.”
Though it is a true testament of team’s ability to run the season undefeated, it was not to be for the Shires.
“I think it bothered a lot of them,” said Moran. “Hopefully, it refocuses us.”
The Shires will play Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in Bangor against the winner of the No. 8 Bucksport/ No. 9 Fort Kent matchup.
Houlton played Fort Kent twice on the season, picking up both wins. At home, the Shires thumped the Warriors, 71-28, but in their second meeting in Fort Kent in late January, the Shires pulled out a 50-44 win.
“We had a really hard time in our second meeting,” said Moran. “We have to play well to beat them.”
Fort Kent has what Moran calls “two great players” in Charlie Nadeau and Cody Plourde.
“Both are very good players,” he said. “They also have some role players who are pretty good.”
If Bucksport should happen to win, Moran has heard they like to [mix up] man-to-man and zone defenses.
“From what I hear, they play pretty good defense,” said Moran.
Bucksport is led by Mitchell Burgess and Sam Stearns, but they also have contributing players.
“They have decent size, a solid point guard and good shooters,” Moran added.
After a long season, the Shiretowners are banged and bruised, while fighting illness and injury.
“We haven’t had a healthy team since the Caribou game,” said Moran. “We have sick kids and we just haven’t had a good practice.”
Moran needs that to change because either Bucksport/Fort Kent will be a challenge at this stage.
“It will be a test whichever way it goes,” he added.
With the Shiretowners hampered, Moran knows it takes the whole team to prevail in the tournament.
“We need everyone to play well,” he said. “We need multiple contributions. It cannot be just the main guns. We need help from the bench and from all the starters. We need to bring it on defense and not have bad defensive trips.
“Offensively, we need to work the ball and not settle for quick shots,” he added. “When we get into trouble, we settle a lot. That’s not good. We need to work the ball, get ball reversals to get the big people touches inside.”
Throw out the standings. Throw out the records. It’s tourney time.
“We will take it one game at a time,” Moran added.
Houlton girls face MA for third time
In Class C girls, the Houlton Lady Shires solidified the number-four position and will meet No. 5 Mattanawcook Academy – Tuesday at 7 p.m. — for the third time this season in the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Maine Tournament.
The teams have split on the season, each team winning at home. On Jan. 8, the Shires won 38-30 at Alumni Gymnasium and to finish the season, Feb. 7 in Lincoln, the Lynx won 36-28.
“Both games were defensive battles and I expect the same in Bangor,” said Houlton coach Shawn Graham. “Lincoln is stingy on the defensive side of things. They like to keep you in the 30s and low 40s, which is very similar to our style of play, as well.”
In the two teams’ last meeting, Graham noted his team had too many turnovers and were beaten on the boards. This week of practice, Graham will be focusing on these two aspects.
“Offensively, we just need to move the ball a little better, attack when the basket when the opportunity presents itself, and not get outhustled,” he said. “They are probably a bit quicker than we are, but I think we have the edge in terms of balance offensively.”
The Lady Shires are led by freshman Katie Condon with 9.8 points per game, followed by senior Marina Cameron with 9.7 ppg; freshman Natalie Hill with 8.6 ppg and senior Tori Hanson with 8.1 ppg.
“It should be a great game,” said Graham.
The Lady Shires’ goal was to improve their seeding for the tournament, which they did.
“We accomplished exactly what we set out to do from a year ago and not have to playoff to get in,” said Graham. “We were a bit inconsistent throughout the season. We got off to a slow start (2-3) but went on a stretch, winning eight out of nine games, before dropping three of our last four.
“That is not how you really want to finish the season, but I think we will be ready to play next Tuesday,” he said. “We’ve got a team with lots of tourney experience and hopefully the juniors and seniors can help the underclassmen with what to expect and how to handle the nerves and jitters of stepping onto the floor for the first time. If everyone shows up to play, I think we can be a dangerous team for anyone.”
Hodgdon Hawks playoff
In Class D boys’ playoffs, the Hodgdon Hawks, Southern Aroostook Warriors and Katahdin Cougars are all facing playoff games tonight.
At the Hawks’ Nest, No. 5 Hodgdon will be facing No. 12 Limestone/MSSM at 6 p.m. The winner goes to the quarterfinal round set for 7:05 p.m. on Monday in Bangor.
The Hodgdon boys have beaten Limestone/MSSM twice — 66-35 and 73-35 — on the regular season.
However, Hodgdon coach Rob Smith knows how dangerous a team can be once hitting the postseason with a trip to Bangor as the prize.
“Regular season games can be thrown out,” he said. “Teams are fighting for the chance to get to Bangor and the level of intensity rises. Limestone can be a team that could surprise us as they have others this year. They beat Fort Fairfield this year and played close games with Fort Kent and Southern Aroostook. This team does not give up in the game. They continue to fight and have players that can contribute on any given night.”
Limestone/MSSM is led by point guard Nate Tucker, who is the primary ball handler, looking to drive and create, said Smith. Bret Butler will look to shoot outside when open, with Brandon Thompson looking to shoot outside, while also getting on the block once in a while.
Limestone/MSSM’s Chris Bernier and Dean Clavet work the post and will pop out to work swinging the ball around, added Smith.
“Dean has a good hook and turn-around jumper on the left block,” he said. “The Eagles have one or two bench players that come in and can contribute to the scoring. They will crash the boards on offense and defense. In the first game we played them, they got two and three chances on the offensive end.”
Since both teams know each other well, Smith wants his team to come out with hustle in their transition game.
“When we rebound, we need to look long and get out running,” he said. “If we have to set up in a half court set, we will see some zone and man. For us on offense, we need to get our outside shooters going. Our outside shooting has struggled lately, so if they go zone this would be a time to work on our outside shooting.
“Nick is continuing to strengthen his arm and may get some inside shots, but will still be the primary ball handler and passer,” Smith added. “We will continue to look inside to Josh and if we can get other mismatches, we will put another person on the block. Our biggest key tonight is to rebound on both ends of the floor. We work hard on the boards, but not on every possession. When we work hard on the offensive boards, we usually get multiple chances or even fouled.”
SACS faces Easton
The No. 11 Southern Aroostook boys will travel to take on No. 6 Easton tonight. It will be a game of experience against youth, as SACS coach Bill McAvoy is a longtime coach, while Easton’s coach, Dillan Kingsbury is in his early 20s.
The Warriors are led by Jesse Boulier, along with Cam Landry, Will McGary, Cody Lassonde and Kaleb Burpee.
Katahdin Cougars travel to Machias
The No. 11 Katahdin boys have a long ride ahead of them today as they travel to Machias to take on the No. 6 Bulldogs in a playoff game with the winner heading to the Class D quarterfinal game against the winner of No. 3 Central Aroostook/No. 14 Schenck on Monday at 9:35 a.m. at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Cougars’ senior point guard Billy Livezey is able to be back in uniform, which can be a huge boost not only in playing time, but in the morale of the team.
“How much Billy plays is up to doctors,” said Katahdin coach Cliff Urquhart. “If he is a go, we’ll see how he’s moving; how he’s able to make cuts and jump and make our decision from there. Certainly his presence on the floor makes a difference. If he’s able to play, he opens things up for everyone else, especially Colton in the middle. Colton has routinely seen double and triple teams and this may alleviate some of that.”
The Bulldogs, according to Urquhart, are the tallest team the Cougars have seen this season.
“They go 6-7, 6-6 and 6-4 in the front court and have a 6-1 guard that can jump to boot,” he said. “We are going to have to rebound with them to stay in the game. It’s a game we feel like we can win. We’re an 11 seed playing a six seed so the pressure is on them.”
The Katahdin boys are not going to Machias thinking they are the underdog.
“We are certainly not going down there to lose,” said Urquhart. “Defensively, they play a lot of zone so we’ve tried to tune up our zone offense the last few days of practice, but really it comes down to making shots. If we can’t make shots, it doesn’t matter what we run. Defending the post will also be a key. Getchell is 6-6 and can play inside and out.
“We don’t want him or the other bigs catching the ball on the blocks or in the paint,” added Urquhart. “It’s a really good matchup between him and Bivighouse.”