OLD TOWN, Maine — A new coach guiding a lineup with just one starter back from a year ago portends a rebuilding situation for most high school basketball programs.
Not so for the Presque Isle boys squad, now 3-0 after a 61-39 victory over Old Town in a Class B matchup at MacKenzie Gymnasium on Saturday.
It helps when the new coach is Terry Cummings, who came to Presque Isle to replace the retired Tim Prescott after spending the last three years as head coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
It also helps that of the four new starters on this year’s team, three of them comprise a front court standing 6-foot-6-inch, 6-5 and 6-3.
“This year it’s a lot faster-paced,” said senior guard Wilder York, the lone returning starter from the 2010-11 team that went 17-1 last winter before losing to Gardiner in the Eastern Maine quarterfinals. “Coach really gets in the game and gives us a lot of positive reinforcement, which I like, but it really hasn’t been that much of an adjustment.”
The Wildcats’ big three — 6-6 senior Matt Eager, 6-5 junior Tyler Brooks and 6-3 senior Andrew Kofstad — dominated the backboards and combined to score 52 points against a much shorter Old Town team — much of the time after being set up for high-percentage shots by York and backcourt mate Jonah Stephenson.
Eager led the way with 20 points, 12 in the first half as the Wildcats built a 29-19 lead, while Brooks scored 17 points and Kofstad added 15.
“I think our main advantage with me and Tyler is that we’re big and we’re fast, and it’s hard for teams to match that,” said Eager, an all-Penobscot Valley Conference cross-country runner this fall who placed second at the Eastern B championships and sixth at the state meet. “Then with our fast guards we think the same thing is true.”
Old Town fell to 0-3 after a grueling start to its schedule in which its first three opponents — Presque Isle, Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor — are now a combined 10-0.
Junior guard Cameron Archer led the Coyotes with nine points while Tyler Lynch added eight. Old Town’s cause was hurt when leading scorer Garrett Libby went down with an ankle injury during the first half and saw only limited playing time later in the game.
“Today we played with a lot better effort than when we went down to MDI the other day,” said Old Town coach Brian McDormand. “We scrapped more today and I think we made more of a game of it.
“They’re talented and much bigger than us. They went to their strengths, their post players scored (52) points and their guards did a good job of getting it to them.”
Presque Isle jumped out to a 16-6 lead at the end of the first quarter as Eager scored six points and Brooks added five, and the Wildcats maintained that 10-point lead at intermission.
Five early turnovers in the third quarter by Presque Isle helped Old Town hang close, but the Wildcats broke the game open by scoring the final 10 points of the period to take command at 45-25.
York made a 3-pointer to start the run, then Eager made a short hook shot after grabbing an offensive rebound to give the Wildcats a 40-25 lead. Kofstad went inside to convert a three-point play before Logan Good made a layup off an assist by York to cap off the period.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Archer and Lynch briefly closed the gap to 45-31 early in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as Old Town got.
“Obviously we had a pretty big height advantage so we were looking to establish the inside game and I thought we did that pretty well in the first half,” said Cummings, whose front line also is expected to regain the services of injured 6-5 senior center Andrew Cash soon.
“In the second half they came out and played very physical and it was the first time this year we’d seen pressure, so while we’ve been working on that in practice we were a little out of control at times. But we’re still a young team with just one starter back from last year so I’d rather see it now and get a win out of it than see it for the first time later and end up with a loss,” Cummings said.