High school basketball fans in hoop-crazy Millinocket have certainly had plenty to cheer about so far this season.
The Stearns girls are creating a buzz in the Magic City as the Minutemen have roared out to a 6-0 start and made a bold statement that they’ll be a tough team to beat once tourney time rolls around.
“I don’t know if I was expecting to get off to this much of a fast start,” head coach Mike Portwine said. “It actually is a pretty good start. It really is.”
Stearns’ true character came out in a Dec. 15 game at Houlton, where the Minutemen trailed by as many as 12 points before embarking on an 18-11 fourth-quarter run to defeat the Shiretowners 58-55.
“That was a big win for us and a big confidence booster,” Portwine said.
Stearns’ offense has been bolstered by Kirsten Marter, Samantha Lyons and Adriana Eurich, all of whom are averaging more than 10 points per game. Lyons is averaging approximately 10 rebounds as well.
Having Eurich back in the lineup has taken a lot of pressure off Marter and Lyons offensively.
“Having her out there, other teams play honest and don’t sag back on the other two,” said Portwine.
Eurich missed most of the second half of last year and the tournament with a knee injury.
The trio has helped Stearns shoot a solid 34 percent from the field and an outstanding 80 percent from the foul line.
Rebecca Leavitt has done a solid job running the point for the Minutemen while Katie Mills has been stout defensively.
“She’s our defensive player, always draws the tough assignments,” said Portwine, referring to Mills’ efforts against top Class C players such as Casey McCloskey of Penobscot Valley in Howland, Penquis of Milo’s Erica Lyford, Vanessa Sanderson of Houlton and Maddie Park of George Stevens of Blue Hill.
While Leavitt is a good floor general, she’ll also do the dirty work, such as taking charges and going for loose balls.
“She’ll stand in front of a truck. She’s tougher than a bag of hammers,” said Portwine.
While Lyons is an effective post player at 5-foot-9, she has also found some confidence in her jump shot, which should give Stearns’ offense a boost.
“The last two games she’s started shooting the 15-foot jumper and hitting those … it’s a confidence thing for her. She made a couple, now she likes them,” Portwine said.
With long arms, Lyons plays a few inches taller than she stands and complements Marter inside.
The meat of the Minutemen’s schedule is coming up in January, with two games against contender George Stevens, including a Jan. 12 showdown at home.
“I think that’s the much-anticipated game for most Class C people, actually, and GSA is a very good team,” Portwine said.
Devil of a fashion statement
Girls basketball teams sometimes use unique bonding experiences.
The Central of Corinth girls are doing so by sporting a different look, as many of the Red Devils are wearing neon-colored shoelaces in their sneakers.
That’s a little more fashionable than last year’s idea of wearing the Larry Bird-length 1980s red-and-white-striped socks.
“Last year we had those hideous socks so we thought we weren’t going to do that this year, so [sophomore] Bekka [Campbell] came up with cool shoelaces,” said senior guard Rachel Trafton after Central defeated Caribou on Saturday.
Campbell decided to go with the shoelace idea so each player could choose her own style.
“We just decided that instead of the socks this year we’d go with something that everybody could do and have their own thing,” said Campbell.
The Red Devils, who are 3-2 after Saturday’s convincing victory over Caribou, want to make a run at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I’m hoping we’ll be the Cinderella team [that will] come in and surprise a few teams,” said coach Diane Rollins.
Local athletes blogging
This winter, high school track and field fans can follow along with two Eastern Maine Indoor Track League standouts and share their experiences.
Mount Desert Island senior distance runner Heather Spurling and Bangor High senior shot putter Cote Theriault are writing weekly blogs on me.milesplit.us, a Maine running Web site operated by Derek Veilleux, a coach at Scarborough.
The site, which features team rosters, rankings, photographs, statistics and videos from meets, is a division of the national Web site www.milesplit.us.
Each of the 50 states has its own Web page.
Each week, both Spurling and Theriault will share their weekly training regimens and experiences from throughout the season, giving track fans a bit of insight as to what different athletes do to train for certain events.