Tigers are hottest team in the County

     It could be argued that no boys’ basketball team in central Aroostook County is playing better than the Fort Fairfield Tigers.

     Last year’s Eastern Maine Class D champs made the move up to Class C and after some early struggles, registered a 10-game winning streak entering their game at Hodgdon last night.

     In fact, Hodgdon handed FF one of its three losses, however the Tigers also lost the first time around to both Fort Kent and Easton and have since bounced back to beat them in their second meeting.

     “Our inexperience really showed in the beginning of the season,” said second-year Tiger coach Logan McLaughlin, whose team lost four starters from a year ago. “Now I believe we have turned the corner and are playing more relaxed and confident basketball.”

     Fort Fairfield, 11-3 overall and in second place in the C North Heal Point Standings, is coming off a 3-0 week, highlighted by a 66-57 triumph at Washburn last Tuesday.

     The Tigers trailed by four points at halftime, but a 26-12 scoring run during the third quarter put them in control.
Isaac Cyr, a sophomore forward, netted 23 points, while Carter Bruce fired in four three-pointers for 12 more points and Chris Giberson and Ryan Player added 10 and nine, respectively. “We got some solid minutes out of our bench when we got in foul trouble throughout the first half,” McLaughlin said of the win. “Also, our shooting in the third quarter really opened things up.”

     Jarrett Olson scored 14 for the Beavers, while Brandon Cropley, Mccall Turner and Noah Caron were also in double figures.

     On Saturday, Washburn moved to 10-3 and is the third-place team in Class D following a 57-48 win over Central Aroostook that included a milestone moment for one of the Beaver players. Jarrett Olson netted 32 points, including the 1,000th of his career during a 21-10 fourth-quarter rally. CA had led by 12 at halftime before Washburn came back.

     Central Aroostook is now 8-6 and in sixth place in the ‘D’ standings. Zach Crouch, Ben Thomas and Riley McGrath were all in double figures with 15, 13 and 11 points, respectively.

     Easton remains atop the D rankings with its 12-2 mark, which included easy wins over Wisdom and Ashland last week. The Hornets are the lone winless team in Class D at 0-14.

     The Eagles of LCS/MSSM are 5-9 and still in contention to make it into the prelim round in Class C. A two-point win over Van Buren has kept coach Brian Massey’s team within grasp of a playoff spot with a week’s worth of games remaining in the regular season.

     The Caribou Vikings beat Hermon at home last Tuesday, outscoring the Hawks by a 14-6 margin in the final period, but then lost both games over the weekend to Ellsworth and MDI by lopsided scores. Caribou was 7-7 heading into a home game against Houlton Tuesday and is in sixth place in Class B North.

     The Presque Isle boys’ losing streak reached 11 games as they lost four more times last week. The Wildcats held an eight-point lead over Washington Academy last Wednesday before falling, 74-61. They were swept by MDI and Ellsworth during their weekend overnight trip and then fell to Fort Kent at home Monday, 63-56.

     On the girls’ side, Presque Isle closed out its busiest stretch of games of the season yesterday afternoon. The Wildcats played four games in five days, beginning with Friday’s loss at MDI and ending with a make-up contest against Washington Academy Tuesday. In between, PI needed two overtimes to sink Ellsworth Saturday, 50-46, as Emily Lagerstrom had a field goal and Emily Wheaton two free throws in the second extra session to provide the difference. Also, Fort Kent visited Presque Isle Monday and the Wildcats prevailed, 72-20, in a game in which the reserves saw extensive playing time.

    The ’Cats took a 12-2 mark into the WA game and appear to have a top-three finish locked up in Class B North. A crucial game remains against top-seeded Houlton, at home Feb. 2, and with a win PI could move up a slot or two from its current No. 3 position. Presque Isle has been tested over the past couple weeks, including close home wins over Caribou and Foxcroft Academy, but coach Jeff Hudson said it’s no time to panic.

     “We all need to take a step back and appreciate what we have accomplished so far,” he said. “The standards have been set so high [for our program] that we can’t even appreciate the good things that have happened.

     “Playing all these tight games will be good for us down the road if we learn from them,” he added. “We realize we are not playing well and are struggling with our confidence, but we have to understand that we are still one of the top teams and could beat anyone on any given night. I think we will be fine.”

     The Caribou girls came up with an important split during their road trip to Hancock County. The victory came on Friday over Ellsworth, the fifth-place team in Class B North. Caribou won by a point, 36-35, as Gabrielle Marquis’ foul shot with 2.2 seconds left gave the visitors their only lead of the game.

     Viking coach Ryan Deprey said solid defense by Hope Shea, who guarded Madison Card and held the talented player to just five points in the game, was one of the keys along with poise down the stretch. Marquis drained a three with under a minute to play to tie the score and then got a steal late that led to her free throw chance at the end.

     “Confidence wise, the game was huge for us,” Deprey said. “We’ve had stretches where we’ve looked pretty good, but were still struggling to put 32 good minutes together. It’s going to come I’m sure.”

     Caribou owns a 3-12 record and is in 13th place, but Deprey figures the team can still get into the top 12 and earn a playoff spot with a win in one of its three remaining games against Central, Fort Kent or Presque Isle. He said another key game he has t to follow is Mattanawcook’s upcoming game against Central, with a win by the Red Devils needed to keep Caribou’s hopes alive.

     The Fort Fairfield girls continue to hold the top position in Class C as they are 15-1 and have won 10 consecutive entering tonight’s tilt in Washburn.

     Limestone-MSSM is 3-11 and in 15th place and barring an unusual set of circumstances are out of the post-season picture.

     Washburn (11-3), Central Aroostook (10-3), Easton (5-9) and Ashland (5-10) would all be playoff bound in Class D if the season were to end today. The Beavers are a solid third and the Panthers are fourth thanks to the upset of Southern Aroostook Friday (see story). The Bears and Hornets are ninth and 10th, respectively, and both are looking to hold off No. 11 East Grand/GHCA.