HAMPDEN, Maine — The Maine Icebreakers, an AAU girls basketball team composed of eighth-graders from throughout Eastern Maine, certainly weren’t cold at a recent tournament in Saco.
The Icebreakers torched their competition, winning all three games in pool play in the 10-team tourney at the Southern Maine Sports Zone Complex, beating a team from Gardiner in the semifinals and then knocking off the Maine Wave, based in Falmouth, in the championship game.
The team is made up of Jordan Knowlton of Rockland; Alex Winchester, Jordan Maxwell and Ellie Webb of Hampden, Kayla Snow of Hermon, Kelsey Maxim of Old Town, Hannah Bess of Milo, Meredith Stewart of Presque Isle and Emily Lewis of Mount Desert.
The triumph in the state tournament, held on Easter weekend, qualifies the Icebreakers for the AAU National Invitational Tournament July 10-15 in Kingsland, Ohio.
The title game was certainly a nail-biter, according to assistant coach Chad Bradbury, who coaches the squad along with head coach Nick Winchester. The Icebreakers trailed by 6 in the early going, took a 16-15 lead into halftime and never relinquished that lead in the second half, hitting free throws down the stretch.
“It was a close game the whole way — we got behind by six right off the bat [but] the girls hung in, fought back,” Bradbury said.
Of all the teams the Icebreakers played in the tournament, the Wave was clearly the toughest.
“They’re a very athletic team — tall kids, very athletic, all very good shooters, all handle the ball very well,” said Winchester.
The Icebreakers get together for practice once a week in Hampden or Bangor, and the families of the players have been extremely accommodating.
“Great bunch of parents,” Bradbury said.
While the corps of Winchester, Maxwell, Webb, Snow, Maxim and Knowlton have played together for several years, Bess, Stewart and Lewis are new to the team.
But the rookies meshed with the veterans just fine.
“The one thing about this group of kids, they’re all very good basketball players, but all very good kids as well,” said Winchester. “[The veterans have] done a very good job incorporating the new kids.”
The Icebreakers plan to play in a tournament in Derry, N.H., against clubs from throughout New England.
“We’re looking for some tougher competition,” Bradbury said. “The further south you go, the more physical [the style of play] gets.”
In addition to the New Hampshire tourney, the Icebreakers were scheduled for a tourney in Foxboro, Mass., and then another in New Hampshire Memorial Day weekend.
For the most part, the players’ parents pay for traveling expenses such as gas, meals and lodging on road trips. The team will probably have to raise funds to help pay expenses for the trip to Ohio for the nationals.
“We’ll definitely be looking to fundraise and solicit donations to help us [with] the cost of that tournament,” Winchester said.