Southern Aroostook girls are still among the elite

3 years ago

DYER BROOK, Maine — It has been an incredible run for the Southern Aroostook girls basketball program, who appeared in three consecutive state championship contests.

And by all accounts, that impressive run should continue for several years to come as the Warriors have a solid mix of returning veterans and talented underclassmen.

“I think this might be the best shooting team that we have had in a few years,” veteran coach Cliff Urquhart said. “Primarily we’ve hung our hats on our man-to-man defense and I don’t see that changing this year.  We will mix in a variety of pressure.”

Under Urquhart, who is entering his ninth season with the club, the Warriors have been the preeminent team in Class D North. During last year’s campaign, the squad flirted with a perfect season, with an 18-0 regular season. The Warriors heated up in the postseason, rolling over Ashland 72-22 in the quarterfinals; besting Shead 68-39 in the semifinals; and winning their third consecutive regional championship with a 52-33 win over Deer Isle-Stonington.

In the state championship, the Warriors fought valiantly against a determined Greenville team in a rematch of the 2019 state title game. This time, it was Greenville who emerged victorious with a 42-38 win.

The Warriors lost one of its best players, Makaelyn Porter, to graduation, but return a strong nucleus for this year. 

The squad includes a powerful trio of seniors with Paige Vose (guard), Emma Nadeau (guard/forward), Kacy Daggett (center). Daggett is a superb rebounder and low post player who will need to score more this season in order for the Warriors to be successful, the coach said. “We will rely on her leadership,” he added. 

Nadeau improved greatly on the season a year ago and will have an even bigger role this year. “She really came into her own last year,” Urquhart said. “She shows great effort and is a plus rebounder.” Vose will be the team’s primary ball handler from the point guard spot this year.

Joining that trio are a number of returning players with junior Bre Daggett; sophomores Madison Russell and Jennah Brooks; freshmen Emmalee Landry, Lexi Rackliff, Madison Shields and Cami Shields, along with eighth-graders Mackenzie Lilly, Olivia Engerbretson and Libby Anderson.

Russell is a tenacious defender, who coach Urquhart hopes will take the next step in her development to become one of the team’s top scorers. Cami Shields has a great nose for the basket, gives tremendous effort and knows how to run the floor, the coach said.

Madison Shields might be the team’s best shooter and spent a lot of time in the offseason honing her skills. Brooks has improved “leaps and bounds” since joining the Warriors as an eighth-grader and could see considerable minutes in the rotation this year.

Rackliff will probably be the first player off the bench and brings solid footwork and a soft touch, the coach said. Emmalee Landry, though only a freshman, has worked hard to develop her game and could also see time in the rotation, the coach added.

Having so many players returning from last year has been a blessing in disguise this year, as COVID-19 has pushed back the start of the season and practices for every school in the state.

“We missed out on an entire summer of playing together,” Urquhart said. “We have a very young team in terms of experience and to not get vital gym time this summer really hurt us.”

Some of  the areas he hopes to work on as the year progresses are getting better in the half-court offense; scoring more from the low post; and attacking a defense rather than settling for the first shot available.

Urquhart added he was pleased with the schedule put together, as it sees Southern Aroostook playing against tougher opponents like Houlton and Central Aroostook and for the first time Presque Isle and Caribou.

“I love our schedule,” the coach said. “It’s going to be very challenging. We’re playing three Class B teams, two Class C teams and just three Class D teams.

“It’s disappointing that we won’t have the opportunity to get back to the State D Championship for the fourth consecutive year to avenge last year’s loss,” he continued. “But it means the world to the kids that we are going to be able to get out there and play. Some kids have put so much time into working on their game that not having a season would be really upsetting.” 

Assisting coach Urquhart are Brandon McCarthy and Kim Russell. The managers are Maggie Harthorne, Julia Murray.