Shires have new coach, new promising outlook

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — A new, yet familiar face will be guiding the Houlton boys varsity basketball team this season.

Travis Gentle has taken over the program previously led by Tim Brewer. Although it will be Gentle’s first varsity basketball coaching position, he has plenty of experience. He served as the junior varsity coach for the past four seasons, and spent two years as a middle school coach. He is also the school’s varsity softball coach.

Brewer stepped down at the end of last season after leading the Houlton High School boys basketball team to a 57-24 record in his four seasons, as well as the 2019 Class C North championship.

Gentle takes over a team that finished 13-5 during the regular season last year in the Class B North division — the team’s first year back in Class B after spending the previous two years in Class C. The Shires were upset by No. 12 Old Town 63-62 in overtime in the preliminary round.

The Shires lost three starters to graduation from that squad, including 1,000-point scorer Keegan Gentle, Jaron Gentle and Cameron Callnan. 

Gentle’s outlook for the new, albeit shortened season because of COVID-19, is simple. 

“Game wise, of course, we want to win every game,” coach Gentle said. “However, I want to see the kids’ development improve as the season goes on so that we are better at the end of the season when it counts. I would like the kids to be known for their defense and to be a well-rounded team.”

The team’s athleticism should be one of its strong points. “We have a great group of kids who play different sports and are successful in those other sports,” the coach said. “This gives us the ability to have kids play multiple positions and have different combinations of kids playing without losing anything offensively or defensively.”

The Shire roster for 2021 features seniors Zach Conley, Hunter Sennett, Drew Foley and Joel Carmichael; juniors Collin Moody, Isaiah Gentle, Gage Bartlett, Caleb Solomon, Jadon Gentle and Garrett Harvey; sophomore Cody Johnston; and freshmen Adrian Norton, Kohl Skehan, Bronson Hanning and Zack Ervin.

Carmichael played for Greater Houlton Christian Academy last season and was a major contributor for the Eagles in their season. That school did not have enough players to field a team and therefore Carmichael was able to play for the Shires this year.

“It’s hard to say who our starting five will be,” the coach said. “We have a couple returning starters from last year, but have seven or eight kids who could realistically start any game. Our starting lineup may change on a game by game basis.”

The Shires will look to improve their transition game, utilizing the team’s athleticism and speed.

“I am hoping to get some easy baskets this year on the fast break,” the coach said. “In addition, I want us to improve our overall basketball IQ. The boys need to be able to think quickly and adapt to game situations.”

Gentle said he expects Presque Isle and two-time defending state champion Caribou to be among the toughest competition on the Shires’ schedule this season.

The pandemic has affected the Shires as a couple of players who might have been playing, have opted not to because of the restrictions placed on athletes.

“We have had a few kids not playing because of COVID and having to wear masks when playing,” Gentle said. “I think being able to play means a lot to the kids. I felt that missing the spring sports season was heartbreaking to a lot of kids, not just my own [softball players]. I think those athletes have a better appreciation of the ability of being able to play now, even if it is a shortened season.”