PORTLAND — All babies dribble. In the case of Courtney and Kristen Anderson, it’s safe to assume they climbed from their crib and immediately entertained family and friends with a textbook crossover.
Athletes are born. Winners are made. And Leavitt Area High School girls’ basketball — led by a mom, her two daughters and teammates that have shared one heart and one mind since the days of hurling Nerf balls at eight-foot hoops — is the team from central casting on both counts.
Leavitt, the exception to every rule right now in Maine high school hoop, won the Western Class B championship Saturday, surviving York, 58-55, in overtime.
That the game ever got that close is to the eternal credit of the Wildcats, who themselves sought a third consecutive regional title on the heels of an undefeated regular season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired from running up and down the floor,” Leavitt senior Courtney Anderson said.
That’s saying something, because the Hornets adore running with the same passion that newspaper columnists chase free food.
Hard to imagine Anderson, the tournament’s most valuable player, ever using the word “tired” in a basketball context.
Her family eats, drinks, sleeps and lives the game. That’s a big reason the Hornets are celebrating their first regional championship since the Maine Principals’ Association (and, by extension, Title IX) decided that girls deserved the chance to play for a trophy.
Courtney’s mother is the former Tammy Anair, a slender, deadeye shooter who steered Winthrop High School to Western Class C championships in 1981 and ’83.
She, too, was a tournament MVP. Still looks like she could go out and score 20. Still shares the 30-year-old record for most free throws in a playoff game, regardless of class.
“I think as a coach it’s more nerve-wracking and more rewarding,” Tammy Anderson said. “All I wanted was for these kids to feel what I know. I’ve been there, and it’s amazing that they get that opportunity.”
The elder Anderson began building the foundation almost a decade ago, taking over the elementary-age travel team in the RSU 52 communities.
She balanced that while also coaching the high school squad, enduring multiple one-win seasons, patiently awaiting both Leavitt’s drop from Class A to B and her daughters’ impending ascent into the program.
In an era when so many players celebrate the game seasonally while juggling it with jobs, video games and social networking, Courtney and Kristen Anderson, the younger sister by two years, attack it with a passion rivaling their mother’s.
Better yet, they’ve made the elite AAU circuit without abandoning their friends or putting out-of-state tournaments ahead of Turner, Leeds and Greene.
Best of all, when they’re not running the competition ragged in an organized game, they’re shooting, shooting and shooting some more, on their own, in a gym or in someone’s driveway.
The result is the most exciting show we’ve seen in girls’ basketball in 20 years. Specifically, since Courtney’s future college coach at the University of Maine, Cindy Blodgett, built herself into a Lawrence High School legend and led her team to four straight state championships.
Saturday, the Anderson girls — gosh, they look, smile and play so much alike, it’s a challenge not to write “twins” — combined for 41 points, 16 rebounds and 10 steals.
And that was an off day.
Between the requisite nerves, the Cumberland County Civic Center’s funky shooting background and darn good York defense, the rim prevailed more often than not.
Too bad for the Wildcats that Courtney and Kristen ooze confidence. They keep shooting. They keep conducting a defensive clinic, forcing mistakes that result in painfully easy transition baskets.
Courtney delivered the driving layup that forced overtime; Kristen, the eight points that put Leavitt over the top in that bonus session.
“She did seriously amazing,” teammate Adrianna Newton said of Kristen. “I’m so proud of her. She hit a couple of shots, had so many steals. She was just everywhere.”
With her 15 points and 15 rebounds, neither number far from her season average, Newton could be considered an unofficial, third Anderson sister.
Heck, you could assign Abbey Randall, Amanda Jordan or anyone else in a green-and-white uniform that distinction.
Few teams have a more dominant family thread holding them together. None seem more immune to the jealousy that might tear others apart in that situation.
“I’ve been in a lot of intense situations in tournaments and stuff. I just liked feeling that I could participate and do something big for us,” Kristen Anderson said. “I’ve never done anything without (Tammy and Courtney). They’ve always been there. It’s like a whole family event. I can’t imagine being without them.”
Newton’s a junior. Kristen Anderson is a sophomore.
Speaking of wild imagination, we might not be able to picture a Class B state final without Leavitt for a while.
“I don’t think many people can say they’ve ever done that,” Courtney said of being on a championship team with her mom and sister. “It’s definitely something I’m going to brag about for a while.”
“It’s a dream come true,” she added. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m going to UMaine next year, and I’m never going to experience anything close to what I experienced in high school.”
Copyright (c) 2011, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.