Ben Teer always has been at home on the basketball court. Perhaps that’s just a birthright for the native Kentuckian.
So many days spent shooting jumper after jumper and handling the basketball helped make Teer somewhat of a local legend as he made the transition from grade school in Jonesboro to Washington Academy in East Machias.
But true satisfaction had to wait until last Saturday, when Teer joined his teammates in bringing WA its first Eastern Maine Class C title since 1998.
Not that he hadn’t experienced individual success before.
A four-year starter, the 5-foot-8 senior point guard has scored more than 1,000 points for the Raiders while also flourishing on AAU teams and at summer camps.
Today he admits so much focus on individual goals detracted from him from the best interests of his team.
And when there were individual pitfalls, like a 2-for-13, four-point performance in last year’s semifinal loss to Stearns of Millinocket, disappointment ran deep.
“To be honest, I was a selfish player,” said Teer. “I wanted us to win, but I wasn’t team first. I wanted to get seen.”
But a trip to England last summer to visit former WA classmate Josh Johnson proved enlightening, not because of the sights and sounds across the ocean but because of the advice he received from his friend.
“He said sometimes winning is better than looking good,” said Teer. “Until then I had put myself before the team, but this year I’ve put the team before myself.”
WA finished this regular season with the same 17-1 record it had a year ago, but with a distinctly different vibe.
“One of the biggest things that helped us this year has been our team chemistry and being a family,” he said. “We all hang out after school now. After the Eastern Maine final, we all went and watched clips of the Calais game together and celebrated the win.”
Not that there still aren’t occasional moments of individual concern.
“I didn’t play well in the tournament last year,” he said, “and before the first game this year I was nervous, I was really sweating. But my teammates said to me that we have faith in you, you should have faith in yourself.”
Teer went on to earn tournament MVP honors as WA ousted four-time defending champion Calais in the final. That game also provided one more test of the team’s resolve when the Blue Devils — who earlier had lost to WA by 37 points — mounted a late comeback.
“Last year if we had been in the situation where Calais hit back to back 3-pointers to get within three points in the final minute, we might have shut it down because this was Calais and here they come,” said Teer. “But this year we stayed together, dug down on defense and grinded out a win.”
Teer still has individual goals. He’s received feelers from some Division I college programs, and with that in mind he may play postgraduate basketball at Lee Academy next winter.
But first there’s the opportunity to bring home the first gold basketball in school history Saturday night when WA meets Dirigo of Dixfield at the Augusta Civic Center.
“We want to finish this off, not just for ourselves but for everyone in the past that has come up short in WA basketball history,” said Teer. “Winning Eastern Maine was an accomplishment, but what would make it perfect would be to go all the way.”