Southern Aroostook girls look to continue Class D dominance

2 years ago

DYER BROOK, Maine — It has often been said that defense wins championships. 

It’s a formula that has worked well for the Southern Aroostook girls basketball team over the past half decade, resulting in three appearances in the state championship and two gold balls for the Warriors.

Another state Class D title could have been added last season, had COVID-19 not shut down the state, limiting basketball to just regional games. Still, the Warriors made the most of the opportunity, finishing with a 15-1 overall record and winning the Aroostook County championship with a thrilling 64-58 victory over Class B powerhouse Presque Isle.

Cliff Urquhart returns for his 11th season as the Warrior girls basketball coach and has a number of talented returning players eager for the new season.

“I think we have an opportunity to be a good team and compete in our division,” the coach said. “This could be one of the better defensive teams we’ve had in a few years. We are very guard-oriented and have some kids that can get to the rim, create contact and finish.”

As has been the case for the past several years, the Warrior roster features a solid mixture of veteran leaders and younger players, ensuring that the program remains strong for many years to come.

The 2021-22 Warrior roster features seniors Emily Stewart and Bre Daggett; juniors Madison Russell and Callie Russell; sophomores Emmalee Landry, Lexi Rackliff, Madison Shields and Cami Shields; freshmen Olivia Engebretson and Libby Anderson; and eighth-graders Hannah McGary and Ally Shields.

With Madison Russell, a guard, the Warriors have one of the better players in Class D North. “Maddie can do it all,” Urquhart said. “I felt like she really showed her offensive skills at the end of last season and was more assertive trying to score the basketball.”

Madison Shields and Cami Shields will also have the ball in their hands often as guards for the team. Madison Shields can be a knock down shooter and can get to the rim if given a little space, the coach said. 

“Maddie made it a priority and really improved as a defensive player last season,” he added. “Cami has some of the best work ethic on the team and has non-stop hustle. She really gets the most out of her ability.”

Emmalee Landry, a forward, is pushing hard for a spot in the starting lineup, the coach said. “She has loads of potential to be a great rebounder,” Urquhart said. 

The Warriors could use a three-person rotation at the center position this season, Callie Russell, Rackliff and Daggett. “Each kid brings something different to the team,” the coach said. “Callie took a season off last year and we are glad she is back. She brings a high basketball IQ and has some good footwork inside. Lexi is due to have a breakout season. She dealt with some injuries last year but if healthy could really contribute. And Bre had a good summer of basketball. She has the ability to step back and hit a jumper. She should get more minutes this year.”

Another player pushing for playing time is eighth-grader Ally Shields, a versatile defender with a knack for the ball. “She is really going to help us when we zone trap and press teams,” the coach said. “Her offense might be limited early in the season as she adjusts to the varsity level.”

The Warriors lost three players to graduation — Kacy Daggett , Emma Nadeau and Paige Vose.

Coach Urquhart said rebounding will be one area that he hopes will see improvement as the season progresses. “Losing Kacy Daggett to graduation was a substantial loss and we lost our two top rebounders from last season,” he said. “Cleaning up the glass and rim protection is going to be a huge area of importance for us this year.”

Wisdom and Katahdin should be among the toughest competition in Class D North this season, according to Urquhart.

“It (basketball) means the world to most of these kids,” the coach said. “They want an opportunity to play for something meaningful. Although winning the overall County Championship and beating undefeated Presque Isle last year was a unique experience, we felt like we were robbed of a year to win the ultimate prize (a state championship).”