Panther boys hoping for bounceback season

1 year ago

MARS HILL, Maine — Last year was not a typical one for the Central Aroostook boys basketball program.

A perennial playoff contender, which competed in the Class C North regional final as recently as 2020, the Panthers struggled to a 6-11 regular season record to place 16th in the 19-team division.

It was an open tournament and they won a play-in game against No. 17 Sumner before being eliminated by top-seeded Fort Kent in a preliminary contest.

“Between injuries and COVID-19 protocols, it was a difficult year as we never got into a rhythm,” said eighth-year coach Jason Woodworth. “I believe we had something like 10 or 11 different starting lineups, all because we were never healthy or because of COVID protocols.

“Our kids never stopped working, but at every turn we just kept getting beat down,” he added. “This year’s team has a very positive outlook and is very excited to be in the gym, and we are all very excited to see what we can do together.”

The Panthers have to replace three starters, including Lucas Haines, who averaged over 25 points per game and is now playing collegiately at UM-Presque Isle. However, Woodworth likes the veteran group that is returning to the court.

“There is a good nucleus as they all know their roles and are happy to fill them,” he said. “This team seems to be a little more relaxed and easy going and I think this has a lot to do with no more uncertainty with what today or tomorrow brings, which was the case the last two years.”

Woodworth is projecting a starting five consisting of seniors Liam Shaw, Hunter Charette and John Coffin; junior Colby Burlock and sophomore Trace Kinney.

Seniors Ryder Brewer and Billy Anthony should see action off the bench, while junior Alex Dixon is a transfer expected to play a role. Juniors Wyatt Allen, Caleb Howlett and Chad Crandall round out the roster along with freshman Caden Bell and senior Cooper Mahan.

“We have the mentality that we are starting over and this group feels like they have a lot to prove,” Woodworth said. “My favorite thing about the team is how responsive and attentive they have been.”

Woodworth has been able to maintain consistency with his coaching staff, as Carl Mullen is back for another season as the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant, while Corey Burlock returns as a volunteer assistant.

The veteran coach said his team will need to become stronger, “both mentally and physically,” as the season goes on.

“When things get tough, we have to remain on course and believe in ourselves. That is going to be a very big key for us,” Woodworth said.