CALAIS, Maine — The players are changing as one graduating class gives way to the next.
But so far this season, little else is different about the Calais boys basketball program.
One of the few veterans on the roster, senior center Cal Shorey, scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds Monday night as the three-time defending Eastern Maine Class C champs fought off Down East rival Washington Academy of East Machias 67-55.
“Cal had a big night, and he needs to have big nights,” said Calais coach Ed Leeman after his team’s 59th straight regular-season victory. “They really had nobody inside that could contend with him. He’s going to draw double-teams, but even when he does, he needs to keep looking to score. He’s that big and strong so that’s what he needs to do for us and he did it tonight.”
Senior guard Jordan Leeman, the coach’s son, added 14 points, six rebounds and five assists for 4-0 Calais, while junior guard Jeremy Carr and reserve forward Jeff Johnston each scored 11 points.
“It’s a confidence builder, most definitely, for the younger guys,” said Shorey of the win over a regional rival that is expected to supply some of the stiffest resistance to the Blue Devils’ quest for a fourth straight EM crown. “They know they’re needed on this team; they’re an integral part of what we do.”
While the Blue Devils were playing just their fourth game of the season, Washington Academy (7-1) was playing its third game in four nights, and Calais used relentless half-court defense to wear down the Raiders late in the game.
Washington Academy made just four field goals over the game’s final 12 minutes.
“It’s a lot of fun when you beat a talented team like that just because of chemistry and hard work, because they’re probably one of the most talented teams around,” said Jordan Leeman. “But we just beat them with grit and hard work and heart, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Point guard Ben Teer lead Washington Academy with 20 points, including a half-court 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to rally the Raiders to a 16-16 tie.
The 5-foot-6 junior scored 10 points in the opening period on 4-of-4 shooting and finished the first half with 16 before being limited to 1-of-6 shooting from the field after the break.
“Every time he tried to make a move, we pinched really hard on him and then got back to the shooters,” said Jordan Leeman. “It’s really hard to do with them because he’s a very good point guard and they have four other kids who can shoot the ball around him, so on defense you have to move really well and trust your team-mates.”
Calais held a 30-24 halftime lead, but WA rallied to take its only advantage since 3-2 on a three-point drive by Smith that gave the Raiders a 37-36 edge with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
Calais immediately countered with a 10-2 run to regain control, as Shorey hit a jumper, fed Leeman for a low-post basket and added a follow-up shot to go with two inside baskets by Johnston as the Blue Devils regained a 46-39 cushion with 1:35 left in the period.
Washington Academy stayed in contention by making 16 of 18 free throws during the second half, but Shorey and Carr each scored six points in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory as Calais maintained at least a six-point lead over the game’s final six minutes.
Junior guard Matthew Smith added 15 points for Washington Academy, while junior guard Noah von Rotz contributed 11.
“At times we fell asleep on defense and gave up easy baskets, and we can’t give up easy baskets to a team like Calais,” said WA coach Kenrick Liburd. “I do think we played well enough to win a basketball game at home, but on the road maybe we didn’t. We made enough mistakes to lose a basketball game on the road.”