Houlton girls look to youth, speed this season

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton girls basketball team has traditionally been one of the area’s top squads and a perennial playoff contender. 

That could easily be the case again this year, but if the team is to experience success it will likely be in a much different manner this season. The Shires will feature a number of new players, including six freshmen, who will all be called upon to make contributions quickly this year.

Shawn Graham enters his 17th year as the Shires head coach and this season has one of his smaller squads in terms of height. Therefore, he will be looking to utilize his team’s speed and quickness to its advantage this year.

“My outlook is a bit different in comparison to years past,” he said. “Without a regional tournament nor Heal Points, many aspects change drastically. We are making the most of the current situation. The kids are working hard, looking to improve their skill set and having fun.”

The 2021 Shire roster features seniors Emma Ardell and Morgan Graham; juniors Mia Henderson, Olivia Henderson, Breanne Barton and Samantha Johnson; sophomores Drew Warman and Emma Swallow; and freshmen Kaitlyn Kenney, Camille Callnan, Amelia Callnan, Lily Brewer, Gabby Gentle and Callie Sylvia. 

Ardell and Graham are four-year varsity players, while both Henderson girls and Barton each have three years of varsity experience.

“We do have a couple returning players back from injuries a year ago,” coach Graham said. “Bre Barton is back from surgery she had on her foot and will give us some much needed post defense and rebounding. She can also score around the basket.

He added that Johnson is returning from an ACL surgery sustained during the fall of the 2019 soccer season. “Sam is an exceptional defender and adds some quickness to our guard play,” the coach said.

Last season Houlton finished 11-7 and was the No. 5 seed in Class B North. The Shires defeated Foxcroft Academy, 56-41, in a preliminary playoff, but lost to Old Town, 44-34, in the quarterfinals at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Gone from that squad are Abbie Worthley and Teagan Ewings, Kennedy Buzzeo and Samantha Condon, who graduated last spring.

“We lost three starters from a year ago, two to graduation and one that didn’t return to the team this year,” he said. “We are also undersized and inexperienced in the post therefore rebounding and post offense is a concern.”

The Shires numbers are down because of COVID-19, which is why this year’s squad will feature a higher than usual number of freshmen.

The Shires are strongest at the guard position this year, according to Graham. “We have multiple players who can handle and distribute the ball quite well and are fairly quick,” he said. “Perimeter shooting should also be a strength of ours.” 

The starting five will likely vary depending on the matchup. Mia Henderson (10 points, 5 rebounds per game) and Olivia Henderson (8 points per game) will be relied on heavily this season, the coach said. Warman slides into the starting lineup as the team’s likely point guard thanks to her exceptional ball handling and scoring abilities, he added.

“Just getting them [the players] back on the court is a plus for all of our student athletes,” coach Graham said. “We will continue to play hard each night and play with a lot of pride and strive to be one of the better teams in The County. I suspect we can and will be competitive on most nights.”

Presque Isle and Southern Aroostook are likely to be top teams in The County this year, the coach said.

Assisting coach Graham again this season is Clyde Warman. The manager is Haily Galderio.