BANGOR — Before their first preseason practice in November, the Washburn girls basketball team had a players-only meeting, in which head coach Mike Carlos wanted them to establish a goal for the season.
“We said OK, we’re going to decide what we want. We said gold ball, and he said all right, then let’s get to work,” said Beavers senior forward Sara Sjoberg.
All that hard work paid off Saturday as Washburn won its first Eastern Maine Class D championship since 1989, and the Beavers will look to finish the job Saturday at 1:05 p.m. when they take on WM champ Richmond at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Beavers won their regional crown in dramatic fashion, erasing a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Deer Isle-Stonington 50-43.
Even though nothing seemed to be going Washburn’s way, they never stopped believing.
“What I’d like to think is they believe in me a little bit and I believe in them, and when we believe in each other we can accomplish anything we want to accomplish,” said Carlos.
Prior to this winter, Washburn’s girls teams have had many tourney setbacks, including a loss in the regional final to Lee Academy as a No. 1 seed in 2007 and a first-round upset by Katahdin of Stacyville a year later.
That also came when the Beavers had earned a top spot, and it occurred when Sjoberg and classmate Rebecca Campbell were freshmen.
“We don’t talk about it (anymore),” said Campbell.
Campbell wound up fouling out of Saturday’s contest in the third quarter, and while freshman Carsyn Koch did provide a spark off the bench, Campbell was still a tad apprehensive when relegated to the bench with her team still down by more than 10 points.
“To be honest I was nervous, I was sweating, I was crying, upset, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Campbell said.
What happened was the Beavers’ freshmen, Koch, Carmen Bragg and Nicole Olson, clamped down on the Mariners defensively while Olson provided a spark offensively, scoring all 11 of her points in the second half to fuel Washburn’s comeback.
Koch and Bragg, who finished first and third in Class C in cross country this fall, used their quickness to flood passing lanes, and they eventually wore down Deer Isle-Stonington’s guards.
“She’s great, she’s always a picker-upper on the team,” Sjoberg said of Koch. “You don’t know what to expect from her but it’s always something great.”
Washburn’s road to the regional championship wasn’t an easy one, as it defeated Bangor Christian, who knocked the Beavers out of the tourney last winter, defending state champion Fort Fairfield and a red-hot DI-S team to reach the state final.
“They set the goal, all I did was push them to reach their goal,” said Carlos.
The Beavers did enjoy a hoops dynasty back in the late 1980s with three gold balls in four seasons. Sophomore center Olivia Doody’s mom, Julie, was a part of those squads.
With a talented cast of underclassmen, this could potentially be the beginning of a similar run.
“This year we’ve had a great run. Let’s see if we can finish it,” said Carlos.
Class B final at 7 p.m. Friday
It’s common to have two archrivals battling for a state championship, but it’s very rare when two schools from the same conference go at it for a gold ball.
That will be the case in Portland on Friday at 7 p.m. when Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference powers Nokomis of Newport and Leavitt of Turner Center meet in the Class B state final at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The two teams did meet in the regular season, with coach Tammy Anderson’s visiting Hornets coming away with a 66-61 victory in Newport.
With the way these two clubs like to get up and down the floor, another high-scoring game is possible.
“Both times we’ve played them it’s been a battle,” said Nokomis senior point guard Julie Smith. “They have one of the best point guards in the state, but I think we match up pretty good.”
The two teams have split two regular-season meetings the last two years, each winning on each other’s home court.
Both clubs feature excellent guard play, with Nokomis led by Smith, Emilee Reynolds and Kelsie Richards, while Leavitt showcases University of Maine-bound senior Courtney Anderson and sister Kristen.
The Andersons, the coach’s daughters, sank a number of 3-pointers from NBA range during the Western Maine tourney.
Central’s Campbell chooses MMA
Rebekah Campbell, who helped lead Central High of Corinth to consecutive Eastern Maine Class C tournament appearances, will continue her basketball career at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
The 6-foot-4 Campbell averaged more than 10 points and 10 rebounds in leading coach Diane Rollins’ Red Devils to an undefeated regular season and the No. 2 seed in Eastern Maine.
Central lost to Washington Academy of East Machias in Friday’s regional semifinals.
Campbell will join a Mariners club that is graduating only three seniors and she should give coach Craig Dagan a strong threat inside.