It started out as a typical Senior Night celebration at Brewer High School.
Prior to Friday’s game against Lawrence of Fairfield, Leah Jackson, her classmates and their parents were recognized for their hard work and efforts on and off the basketball court.
That’s when Jackson got the surprise of her life: She had been nominated for the McDonald’s All-American girls basketball team.
“Yeah, I had no idea what was going on. Coach didn’t know. Nobody knew,” Jackson said. “I was totally surprised when they said I had got this honor.”
Jackson is among 1,000 schoolgirl players from across the country competing for 24 spots on the All-American squad, which will be announced later this month.
The 5-foot-10 forward was nominated by the McDonald’s All-American Girls Selection Committee, a panel of 24 basketball experts, including nationally renowned coaches and members of the media.
The East vs. West showcase will take place April 1 at Miami’s BankUnited Center, and will be broadcast on ESPNU-TV.
Jackson, who averages 11 points per game for coach Andy Nickerson’s Witches, didn’t exactly feel the excitement of the moment right off the bat.
”It actually didn’t sink in until later. I didn’t fully understand what this is all about, so yeah I was excited,” she said.
After a while, the magnitude of the moment finally set in for one of Class A’s top all-around players.
“There was a lot of emotion there. I was just happy. I can’t even explain it,” Jackson said.
The fact the Witches earned a 33-30 win over Lawrence on Senior Night, a big win in Brewer’s quest to host a home preliminary game, added spice to the pot.
“That was a big confidence booster for us. We had some games we lost that we should’ve won, it was incredible,” Jackson said.
She was also quick to give her teammates plenty of credit.
“They were all happy for me which was good,” she said. “Every one of us, we’ve worked so hard; not even just through high school but our entire basketball career.”
Past notable All-Americans from Maine include current University of Maine women’s basketball coach and former Lawrence, UMaine and WNBA player Cindy Blodgett and former Catherine McAuley of Portland standout Ashley Cimino, who now plays at Stanford University.
Good fortune for Eurich
The year 2008 was not kind to Stearns of Millinocket senior Adriana Eurich.
But, after she had knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in January of 2008, that only made Eurich work even harder last spring to get back onto the field hockey field and basketball court, where she’s right at home.
“Seeing what she dealt with over the spring last season and coming back from her surgery, she worked incredibly hard last spring,” said Stearns basketball coach Mike Portwine after Eurich and the Minutemen defeated Houlton on Friday night.
Eurich suffered a similar injury in a game against George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill last month, but the difference this time was that she tore the graft muscle in her ACL, allowing her to wear a brace and play, which was quite a relief.
“Same thing, same pop sound besides the pain because it’s a graft …. [but] I was scared. I’m glad I can finish my season, it means a lot to me,” Eurich said.
Eurich, whose brace acts as her ACL, plans to have surgery after this season.
“This is a great team this year. I really want to finish this year, especially after last year,” Eurich said.
Last year she could only sit and watch as her Minutemen were knocked out of the Eastern Maine Class C tournament in the quarterfinals by GSA.
This year, however, things could be different.
“This is my senior year, this is our year … we really want to win this year,” Eurich said.
When Eurich was given the green light for her respective senior field hockey and basketball campaigns, Christmas came really early for Portwine.
“The day that she told me she had been cleared by her doctor to be able to play field hockey and basketball again, I was just so proud of her. She was beaming from ear to ear how proud she was of herself,” said Portwine.
Two is better than one
Mount Desert Island senior sprinter Danielle Hutchins continued her assault on the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League record books in a meet Saturday night at the University of Maine in Orono.
This time, however, she had company in Brewer senior Kira Giroux.
With Hutchins’ Trojans and Giroux’s Witches in the same meet, two of the state’s best sprinters would have a showdown in the 400 meters, both poised to eclipse Jen Puiia’s old record of 59.98 set in 1999.
It was obvious right from the firing of the starter’s gun that Hutchins and Giroux had the mark in their sights, as both runners turned a blazing 27-second 200.
In the end, Hutchins clocked a 58.55 and Giroux a 59.88, earning Hutchins yet another league record. Giroux broke Puiia’s 10-year-old Brewer High record, which was also the old league record.
Before Saturday, Puiia was the last EMITL schoolgirl runner to break the elusive 1-minute barrier in the 400.