Tourney time was a busy time for Logan McLaughlin as he helped Central Aroostook of Mars Hill win the Class D boys basketball state championship.
But the immediate aftermath of that tourney run is just as busy. Earlier this week McLaughlin played in the Aroostook County all-star game, and on Saturday he’ll play for the East Classes C-D stars in the annual Maine McDonald’s East-West Senior All-Star Games at Husson University in Bangor.
Then on Sunday he’ll board a plane bound for Salt Lake City, Utah, where on Monday he’ll have laparoscopic surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back that has made not only tourney time but the last 10 months the ultimate exercise in playing through pain.
“It definitely hurt a lot,” said McLaughlin, who first experienced soreness in his back last spring while playing baseball, “and it got a lot worse from the beginning of basketball season to the end. Before games it was pretty brutal.”
Coping with an injury is nothing new for McLaughlin, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that required surgery before his sophomore season of basketball at Central Aroostook.
But while the ACL injury occurred in one instant, McLaughlin’s back woes were cumulative in nature.
This winter, while McLaughlin missed just one regular-season game during Central Aroostook’s run to a 22-0 record, that pain affected his play on the basketball court — though opponents often were hard-pressed to notice any difference in the hardworking guard.
“One thing it hurt was having that first quick step and being able to finish off plays,” he said. “And when I’d go to jump off my left leg to shoot or rebound, I’d feel that pain in my leg and I wasn’t getting up half as high.
“But this is my senior year, and there was no way I was going to sit out.”
Twice McLaughlin had cortisone shots in an effort to quell the pain.
“The first time it helped a little bit, but the second it didn’t help much,” he said.
Central Aroostook coach Tim Brewer, who battled shoulder and elbow injuries of his own during a high school career that included helping CAHS win the 1994 state championship, could sympathize with McLaughlin’s pain as well as understand his determination to play through it.
“He only missed the one game against Wisdom at home because he had a shot that day,” said Brewer. “Other than that he didn’t miss any time, but when he came into practices it took him quite a while to get ready.”
And as play grew more intense during postseason play, McLaughlin’s resolve to finish what he started grew more resolute, even when facing even greater physical challenges.
“There were three or four times in the tournament when he went to the floor pretty hard,” said Brewer. “One time against Jonesport-Beals [in the Eastern Maine final] he drove to the basket and tried to make sort of a 360 [-degree] move. He came down on his back and I didn’t know if he was going to get up.
“But he got up, headed back down the floor and stole the ball on the other end.”
McLaughlin could have opted for surgery this week in Utah — where his surgeon will be spine specialist Scott Adelman, a Mars Hill native now practicing in Salt Lake City — but he wanted to enjoy the all-star events before being sidelined for approximately six weeks.
“This is my senior year and this might be my last time playing basketball like this,” said McLaughlin, who hopes to join the Husson baseball program next year. “A lot of kids don’t get a chance to play in these games and it’s an honor for me to have this chance, especially to play in the McDonald’s game.”
Maine McDonald’s weekend activities begin Friday with team practices at the University of Maine Student Recreation and Fitness Center in Orono, followed by the teams visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor.
The all-star banquet follows Friday evening at Newman Gymnasium on the Husson campus, highlighted by the naming of this year’s Mr. and Miss Maine Basketball.
All three Mr. Basketball finalists are from Eastern Maine: Bo Leary of Edward Little of Auburn, Tyler McFarland of Camden Hills of Rockport and Graham Safford of Hampden Academy.
All three Miss Basketball finalists are from Western Maine: Kayla Burchill of Deering of Portland, Rebecca Knight of McAuley of Portland and Nicole Taylor of York.
Saturday’s schedule at Husson begins with the state free-throw shooting finals at 8:30 a.m., followed by the boys Classes C-D game at 9:15, a slam dunk competition at 10:30 and the boys A-B game at 11.
The girls A-B game is set for 1:15 p.m., followed by a 3-point shooting contest at 2:30 and the girls C-D game at 3.