Central Aroostook is no stranger to athletic dynasties as the Mars Hill school has been a basketball powerhouse over the last decade.
But in a region where hoops is typically the topic of conversation from November through February, Central Aroostook’s cheerleading squad is in the midst of a dynasty of its own, having won the last three Class D state championships.
Coach Sami Jo Allen’s Panthers took the first step in claiming a fourth by winning the East-West regional competition at the Bangor Auditorium Saturday.
Central Aroostook will be gunning for its fourth straight state title on Feb. 12 at the Bangor Auditorium.
Unlike last year’s edition of the Panthers, this one is young, with five new faces on the 11-person squad.
But confidence breeds success, and a pre-routine pep talk settled any nerves that Central Aroostook may have had.
“I told them they could do it, they’re a confident team,” said Allen. “We went up to County’s and we were able to compete with Presque Isle, Caribou and Houlton.”
Those teams are certainly legitimate competitors, as Presque Isle finished third in Class B while Houlton took the top spot in Class C.
Senior co-captain Kyle Donahue, a four-year squad member, has noticed a lot of growth from his teammates over the course of the year.
“We’ve improved so much from the first day we started having practices,” he said. “We encourage each other and that’s the big thing on the team.”
Central Aroostook has also had to overcome adversity in piecing together its championship routine.
“As the season has gone there’s been more and more things that have happened,” Allen said. “We were three weeks in before we had a full practice.”
That didn’t stop the Panthers from continuing its regional championship quest, and Allen’s squad is ready to take it all the way again.
“We’re changing a lot for states and we’re going to make it more difficult,” said junior co-captain Whitney Klein.
Another thing that helps is the fact that Central Aroostook doesn’t watch other squads perform their routines, choosing to focus on its own.
“We don’t watch the other teams perform because it makes us nervous,” Klein said.
Even when a stunt was a bit wobbly during warmups, the Panthers’ cohesiveness was showcased again.
“The other group was like, you can do it, you can do it, so they work (well) together,” Allen said.
The Panthers’ other squad members are Alexis Bradbury, Gabrielle and Lexie Brewer, Patricia Donovan, Brittany Drost, Colby Endy, Megan King, Laken Kingsbury and Kellie Stitham.
Three hoop standouts hit 1,000
Mount Desert Island senior Megan Phelps and Central Aroostook junior Vicki McIntyre joined an exclusive club last week by scoring their 1,000th career points.
Phelps, the two-time reigning Big East Player of the Year, reached the milestone on Saturday against Presque Isle in a game won 56-39 by the Wildcats.
Phelps’ efforts currently have MDI sitting in the No. 3 spot in Eastern Maine Class B with four regular-season games to play.
McIntyre scored her 1,000th on Friday in leading her CAHS Panthers to a 61-36 triumph over Madawaska.
Central Aroostook is second in the Class D Heal points with three games to go, including a road showdown with defending state champ Fort Fairfield on Feb. 10.
McIntyre joins Tigers’ standout Amanda Hotham as Class D juniors who have eclipsed 1,000 points this winter. Hotham reached the milestone in a Jan. 24 Fort Fairfield victory over Easton and is believed to be the first Fort Fairfield girls basketball player to do so.
Key games this week
Crunch time is approaching in the schoolgirl basketball ranks, with two weeks of regular-season play remaining and tournament spots up for grabs.
Brewer is one team which is fighting for a spot, with the Witches currently holding onto the eighth and final position in Class A.
Coach Andy Nickerson’s club will hit the road twice in the next week, taking on Mt. Blue of Farmington Tuesday night while a key matchup with No. 9 Skowhegan looms on Feb. 8.
The Witches knocked off the defending regional champs 61-54 in Brewer on Jan. 11, and the rematch could determine who will get one of the final spots in the tournament.
That same Skowhegan club will travel to the Queen City on Friday to face Bangor, which is also on the outside looking in in 11th place.
Coach Katie Herbine’s team has two chances to boost its tourney chances this week as the Rams will visit sixth-place Messalonskee of Oakland on Tuesday.
Another pivotal game this week sends Dexter to Orono in a Class C clash on Wednesday, and a victory over the fifth-place Red Riots could improve Dexter’s tourney hopes. The Tigers currently sit ninth and 10 teams will qualify for the postseason.
Also Wednesday, Houlton, the top-ranked team in Class C, travels to East Millinocket to face Schenck, the No. 4 squad in Class D.
Coach Shawn Graham’s Shiretowners are coming off one of their biggest wins of the year, a 45-43 win over defending state champion Calais on Saturday, while the Wolverines will be looking to bounce back from a 48-30 setback to Orono on Friday.
Other key games feature Camden Hills of Rockport traveling to Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Nokomis of Newport hosting Winslow, both on Friday.