While three of the players on the 34th annual All-Maine Schoolgirl Basketball Team’s first team represent the same trio who were finalists for Miss Maine Basketball, the other two are returnees from the 2009 first team that headline a talented junior class.
York junior Nicole Taylor, who annexed the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year award, and classmate Kayla Burchill of Deering of Portland are the lone representatives from the 2009 first team who returned to that squad this spring.
They’re joined by Miss Maine Basketball winner Christy Manning of Scarborough, Deering’s Claire Ramonas and Jen Nale of Waterville, all seniors.
The second team is made up of Biddeford’s Keila Grigware and Lauren Rousseau, Edward Little of Auburn’s Kirsten Prue, Catherine McAuley of Portland’s Rebecca Knight and Greely of Cumberland Center’s Abby Young.
Comprising the third team are Skowhegan’s Whitney Jones, Washington Academy of East Machias’ Andi Flannery, Leavitt of Turner Center’s Courtney Anderson, Houlton’s Vanessa Sanderson and Calais’ Nicole Osborne.
The All-Maine team recognizes the state’s top 15 players, regardless of class, position or region, as selected by the BDN sports staff with input from coaches, officials and other basketball observers.
One voter dubbed York’s TAYLOR as “the best player in the state of Maine, period,” something a lot of coaches around the state agree with.
“To me, she was a big bull. She’s working on her perimeter game and has done a nice job with it,” said Deering of Portland coach Mike Murphy, whose team scrimmaged Taylor’s Wildcats prior to the Western Maine tournament.
“She’s a very good player, strong, and she’s got good quickness for her size.”
At 6-foot-1, Taylor, who averaged 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in leading coach Rick Clark’s club to an undefeated season and Class B state championship, towers over most of her opponents, but does have the quickness and athleticism to do a variety of things.
“She’s worked on all aspects on both sides of the ball, offense and defense,” said Clark. “She gets up and down the floor like a guard, she’s really quick and she can run the floor all night.”
Taylor is also a gym rat, always willing to improve her skills and is usually the last one to leave practice, Clark added.
She has already accumulated 1,075 points, but statistics aren’t the whole world to her.
“The gold ball means as much to her as the Gatorade [Player of the Year award], tournament MVP award,” Clark said. “Now of course, she wants another one.”
Perhaps no girls basketball player in this state loomed in as big a shadow as MANNING did, as her mother, former Westbrook High and Old Dominion University star Lisa Blais, is one of the best players ever to grace the Maine hardwood.
But that didn’t stop the Scarborough senior from winning the state’s highest hoop honor in Miss Maine Basketball and leading the Red Storm to a state championship while putting up 14.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.7 assists per contest.
“Christy was a great high school player who got better and better,” said Murphy. “Her mom’s the best that ever played in this state, bar none.”
Also an outstanding outdoor track and field athlete who is the reigning Class A state champion in the discus, Manning will attend the College of the Holy Cross on a track scholarship, while she also plans on playing basketball.
While BURCHILL was regarded as an unselfish player who could score when she needed to as a freshman and sophomore for Deering, that had to change for her junior campaign.
“She was very reserved her first two years, deferred to the upperclassmen on the offensive side of the ball,” said Murphy, ”[but] we were not as deep as we had been and she had to become more selfish.”
Burchill averaged nearly a double-double with 16.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per outing and nearly had the Rams back in the Class A state title game again.
“When Burchill unfortunately fouled out on a phantom foul with four minutes to go in the Western Maine final and up seven, within a minute and a half we found ourselves behind. That’s how valuable she was,” Murphy said.
Deering wound up falling to Scarborough, the eventual state champ.
RAMONAS collaborated with Burchill to form one of the most potent 1-2 combinations in Western Maine Class A.
She averaged 14 points and just more than six rebounds for the Rams, and the 5-10 senior was regarded as one of the more well-rounded players in the state.
“She was either first or second in eight offensive categories for us, from assists to free throws taken to points scored,” Murphy said. “She did it all, she always guarded the top offensive player on the other team.”
NALE was one of the key factors in Waterville’s dynasty, which included three straight Class B state championships and a 70-game winning streak, but what’s more impressive was the fact that she averaged more than 20 ppg while facing multiple defenses on a nightly basis her senior campaign.
“There wasn’t a time she touched the ball another defender wasn’t coming at her from some other direction,” said Waterville coach Ted Rioux. “I think she learned a lot as a basketball player this year.”
Nale will follow in her sister Tracy’s footsteps and play her college ball at Colby College in Waterville and should help out an already talented Mules’ club.
“She’s not afraid to put it up, she’s got a lot of confidence in her shot,” said Leavitt coach Tammy Anderson, whose Hornets ended Waterville’s long winning streak.
“When I watched the tape of the first game, I said, ‘oh my God, we gave her a lot of open looks, guys.’”
Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference South Player of the Year PRUE compiled solid stats of 15.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, which led the KVAC, while also leading the conference in scoring before suffering a foot injury late in the season.
The Bowdoin College-bound 5-5 senior’s presence was missed, as the Red Eddies won just one game after her injury.
“She’s put so much into basketball her whole life, and the end of the season was hard,” said EL coach Craig Jipson. “We were 12-1 when she went down, it was a tough thing, but she’s got a lot of character and she handled it well. She’s a really special kid.”
He believes that if Prue keeps up her strong work ethic and stays injury-free, she could have an outstanding college career.
“If Kirsten’s healthy, she could be an All-American at Bowdoin. She has that type of talent,” said Jipson.
KNIGHT was also snake-bitten with injuries this winter, missing 10 regular-season games with an injured ankle, but returned in time for the Western Maine Class A tournament, leading her McAuley Lions into the semifinals.
“We were expecting her to be our leader in almost every category,” said former Lions’ coach Wil Smith.
Knight, a junior who has already committed to play for coach Cindy Blodgett at the University of Maine, did put up solid figures, posting 10.4 ppg and 7.4 rpg.
“I’m confident that she’ll be one of the premier players in the state in a very, very talented senior class [next season],” said Smith.
One voter noted YOUNG as one of the state’s underrated players, particularly on the defensive end.
While the Greely senior averaged 14.7 points and 7.9 rebounds, it was her defensive play that paved the Rangers’ run to the Western Maine Class B final.
“We beat everyone but York this year, but it was her defense, shot-blocking, rebounding and ability to alter shots,” Greely coach Bill Goodman said.
Young sparked a strong Greely defensive effort in the WM semifinals in which the Rangers held a high-powered Leavitt team to 38 points.
GRIGWARE averaged nearly a double-double (19.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg), along with 3.2 steals and 1.2 blocked shots, and the 5-10 junior gave Biddeford a lethal inside presence while also showing versatility.
“She played inside for us but was also our backup point guard,” former Biddeford coach Ron Cote said. “She can also handle the ball and play outside. She really stepped up her game this year to the point where she was an impact player for us in all areas.”
ROUSSEAU, one of the state’s top guards who will play at the University of Southern Maine next fall, led the SMAA in assists, averaging 4.6 per contest while scoring 10.0 points.
“She did a good job for us executing our offense, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did without her,” Cote said.
ANDERSON has emerged into a do-it-all player for Leavitt, and the 5-5 junior posted impressive numbers of 18.7 ppg and 5.4 apg to go with five rebounds.
“I think she’s very unselfish, she’s the type of kid you want as a point guard,” said coach Anderson, Courtney’s mom. “She does whatever is necessary to win. If that’s scoring, it’s scoring, if it’s not, it’s not.”
JONES quarterbacked Skowhegan to its first Eastern Maine Class A championship in more than 30 years, and while she could produce points when she needed to, the Indians’ junior is more known for her superior ballhandling and distribution skills.
“We have some kids around her that can put the ball in the basket,” said Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan. “What’s amazing is the way she probably sacrificed more offensive numbers than anybody in the state, but that’s not important to her.”
Jones averaged just more than eight points and five rebounds per contest.
FLANNERY was a key presence in Washington Academy’s balanced offense, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with 2.8 assists and steals.
“She’s always been coachable and a hard worker, one of the hardest workers in practice and games,” Raiders coach Gary Wood said.
While OSBORNE was a vital presence in the regular season for Calais, she rose up big-time in the tournament, posting more than 10 points and 10 rebounds in all four of the Blue Devils’ games as coach Dana Redding’s club won its first Class C state title since 2001.
“One thing about her is her leadership with the younger kids, she did a really good job with that,” said Redding.
Osborne, also an all-state volleyball player who will play that sport and basketball at Maine Maritime Academy, averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds over the course of her senior campaign.
SANDERSON carried the load for Houlton this winter, averaging 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds to lead the Shiretowners back to the regional tournament.
“As far as just a pure, raw, talented player, she’s probably the best I’ve ever had just as far as ballhandling skills and the way she sees the floor and attacks the basket,” Houlton coach Shawn Graham said.
She’ll play at Husson University for coach Kissy Walker.
“I think she’ll fit real well into Kissy’s program and she’s looking forward to it,” Graham said.
Pos. Name School Yr. Ht. PPG RPG
F Kayla Burchill Deering Jr. 6-1 16.2 8.1
C Nicole Taylor York Jr. 6-1 16.7 9.7
F Christy Manning Scarborough Sr. 5-10 14.3 10.8
F Claire Ramonas Deering Sr. 5-8 14.0 6.8
G Jennifer Nale Waterville Sr. 5-7 20.8 4.3
Pos. Name School Yr. Ht. PPG RPG
G Kirsten Prue Edward Little Sr. 5-5 15.3 4.3
F Rebecca Knight McAuley Jr. 5-10 10.4 7.4
F Abby Young Greely Sr. 6-1 14.7 7.9
F Keila Grigware Biddeford Jr. 5-10 19.8 8.8
F Lauren Rousseau Biddeford Sr. 5-7 10.0 4.0
Pos. Name School Yr. Ht. PPG RPG
F Andi Flannery Washington Academy Sr. 5-8 10.0 10.6
G Whitney Jones Skowhegan Jr. 5-6 8.8 5.1
G Courtney Anderson Leavitt Jr. 5-5 18.7 5.0
C Nicole Osborne Calais Sr. 6-1 14.0 11.0
F Vanessa Sanderson Houlton Sr. 5-8 18.7 5.5
Honorable Mention: Amanda Hotham, Fort Fairfield; Hannah Pray, Central; Megan Phelps, Mount Desert Island; Alexa Coloumbe, McAuley; Hannah Fenwick, Mount Ararat; Hannah Dexter, Messalonskee; Vanessa Lougee, Foxcroft Academy; Ariel Knights, Woodland; Taylor Boucher, Fort Kent; Ali Russell, Madison; India Frazier, George Stevens Academy; Jenn Colpitts, Scarborough; Kenzie Smith, Skowhegan; Hillary Throck-morton, Bangor