Witches off and flying to 4-0 start

Posted Dec. 17, 2008, at 8:25 p.m.

Hutchins, Drake, Bissell spark fast-paced attack

“We’re getting a lot more confident together as a team.”

Brewer’s Billy Bissell

The Brewer boys basketball team will play one of its bigger regular-season games in recent years Friday night when the Witches host Edward Little of Auburn in an early-season battle of unbeatens.

Brewer ran its record to 4-0 Tuesday night with a 57-35 win at Bangor, while EL — which reached the Eastern Maine Class A final last winter — improved to 3-0 with a rivalry win of its own Tuesday, a 68-59 decision over Lewiston.

For Brewer, this year’s fast start represents the continuation of a strong end to last season, when the Witches finished just 6-12 but won four of their last six games.

Under new head coach Clayton Blood, Brewer has sought to uptempo its offense and is developing a balanced attack. Senior forward Billy Bissell (13.5 points per game), senior guard Coby Hutchins (11.8 ppg, 10 3-point goals) and junior forward Dom Drake (10.0 ppg) all are scoring in double figures, while senior point guard Kyle O’Connell is averaging 7.8 points and seven assists an outing.

Bissell and Drake are the team’s leading rebounders, while brothers Tyler Bessette and Ray Bessette and senior forward Sean Murphy also have been solid contributors.

“We’re getting a lot more confident together as a team,” said Bissell. “We all play hard and we’re going to keep doing that and hopefully things will go good for us for the rest of the season.”

While the Witches are averaging 60.8 points per game on offense, perhaps their more impressive statistic is that they have allowed just 41.3 points per game in victories over Nokomis of Newport, Hampden Academy, Messalonskee of Oakland and Bangor.

“We’re becoming very comfortable with the offense, and we’re playing defense just like we wanted to all year, pressing in the beginning of the game and throughout the game,” said Hutchins.

Hutchins has been a key factor in that defensive effort, as he has been successful guarding a variety of opponents ranging from talented 6-6 Hampden forward Jacob Moore to veteran Bangor point guard Ryan Larochelle.

“Coby’s not real tall but he’s wide and strong, and to be able to be as quick a foot as he is is just tremendous,” said Blood. “He’s been a defensive presence for us. He’s got the heart, no question, and he’s a very bright kid.”

Brewer’s defense will be tasked Friday night with containing a tall and talented Edward Little front line featuring Corey Therriault and James Philbrook.

Therriault, a Bangor Daily News Eastern Maine Class A All-Tournament pick last winter, is averaging 24.0 points per game in the Red Eddies’ victories over Mount Ararat of Topsham, Cony of Augusta and Lewiston, with a season high of 31 against Cony. Philbrook is averaging 14.7 points per game and also ranks as EL’s re-bounding leader.

Coach Mike Adams’ club was picked No. 1 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, and has done nothing to diminish that notion during the early part of its schedule.

“In style, coach Adams down there does a lot of things similar to what we’re doing,” said Blood. “They’re going to mix things up, play full-court man, two or three different zones, and they’re going to try to run. It should be a lot of fun.”

Changes coming in PTC Class B

The Pine Tree Conference Class B football ranks will have a different look next fall.

Two member teams, Maranacook of Readfield and Oak Hill of Sabattus, are expected to drop from Class B to Western Maine Class C beginning next fall after falling below the Class B enrollment minimum of 505 as of April 1, 2008.

In addition, Camden Hills of Rockport, which played a PTC B schedule as a club-level team last season, is expected to join the varsity ranks in 2009.

Those changes would leave the PTC B with 10 teams, down from 11 last season and from 12 two years ago, before Old Town dropped from Class B to the LTC Class C ranks.

The new-look PTC B also may have to look at its conference playoff structure, which in recent years has involved eight teams.

Typically, 10-team football conferences in the state have qualified four teams for regional postseason play. Last season the only two Class B leagues in the state, Western B and Western C, each played a nine-game regular-season schedule followed by a four-team playoff format.

While the PTC Class B will have to consider either an eight-game regular season with eight playoff teams or a nine-game regular season followed by four-team playoffs, Western Maine Class C, part of the Campbell Conference, will face even more significant changes.

That league, 10 teams in 2008, is likely to grow to 14 in 2009 with the additions of Maranacook and Oak Hill and the potential ascensions of Freeport and Sacopee Valley of South Hiram to varsity status for the first time.

That conference likely would be divided into two seven-team divisions for scheduling purposes, followed by an eight-team playoff format.

Maine Principals’ Association committees are working on reclassification in all sports for the two-year cycle that begins next fall.

Any changes do not become official until after a vote of MPA members next spring.

Indians’ Marston, Clark honored

Skowhegan football coach Mike Marston and senior tailback Billy Clark were among those earning top honors when the Pine Tree Conference held its recent postseason awards banquet.

Marston shared PTC Class A coach of the year honors with Darren Hartley of Edward Little of Auburn, while Clark was named the division’s player of the year.

Marston guided the Indians to a 10-2 record, including the program’s first Eastern Maine Class A championship since 1989. That effort was highlighted by a victory over two-time defending Eastern A champion and previously unbeaten Lawrence of Fairfield in the regional semifinals that avenged Skowhegan’s lone regular-season loss.

The Indians then shut out Edward Little in the EM final before bowing 26-6 to Bonny Eagle of Standish in the state championship game.

Hartley shared coaching honors with Marston for directing a major turnaround at Edward Little. After finishing just 1-7 in 2007, the Red Eddies went 9-2 in 2008, losing only at Bangor during the regular season and then to Skowhegan in the Eastern A final.

Clark rushed for 2,187 yards and scored 28 touchdowns out of Skowhegan’s double-wing and power-I offensive formations this fall, averaging 182.2 rushing yards per game and 7.6 yards per carry.

He finished his career as the leading scorer in Skowhegan football history with 328 points, and has been named a semifinalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, symbolic of the state’s top high school senior football player.

eclark@bangordailynews.net

990-8045

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