Most teams with a 5-3 record are fairly content with their lot in basketball life — except, perhaps, if you’re part of the Central Aroostook dynasty.
Those three losses, after all, equal the number of regular-season defeats for the Mars Hill-based Panthers during the previous five seasons combined.
Injuries and ineligibility have left coach Tim Brewer piecing together a variety of lineups throughout the early stages of the schedule for Central Aroostook, which last winter won its third Class D state championship in the last four years.
But gradually the missing pieces have been returning, and the Panthers received a big boost late last week with the return to the lineup of sophomore guard Logan McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, who saw considerable duty during the team’s 2008 title run, missed the Panthers’ first eight games this season after undergoing surgery for a knee injury suffered while playing soccer last fall.
McLaughlin saw spot duty last Thursday in a game against Wisdom of Saint Agatha, then played approximately half of the minutes in Central Aroostook’s 68-33 win over Hodgdon on Saturday.
“He’s a very important player for us,” said Brewer. “He’s our point guard and he’s an excellent defender, he’s always in the right place at the right time.
“He may only score five to 10 points a game, but he’s worth 25 to 30 because he gives our team an identity of toughness.”
McLaughlin’s return is enabling Brewer to finally use the lineup he envisioned when the season began.
Senior Manny Martinez, who hit the game-winning shot in last year’s state-final victory over Richmond, joins McLaughlin at guard, with junior Kasey Brewer and freshman Brendan York at forward and sophomore Caleb Kelly at center.
Depth comes from freshmen Dan Brewer and 6-4 Mike McClung, senior Jack Footer, junior Garrett Stiles and sophomore Mitch Folsom.
“We’ve got a real good bench this year,” said coach Brewer.
Central Aroostook, which has lost twice to undefeated Fort Fairfield and once to Katahdin of Stacyville, faces a busy upcoming schedule, beginning Thursday with a road test at Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.
“I think we’re going to make a push,” said Brewer, who is 155-24 in nine years as the Central Aroostook coach, including 111-8 over the last five-plus seasons. “I can see us starting to come together.”