One of the bigger turnarounds in Eastern Maine boys basketball so far this winter has been in Orono, where the Red Riots entered Tuesday night’s game at John Bapst of Bangor with an 8-4 record after tallying just seven wins in the previous two years combined.
“I knew we were going to be good this year, but coming off a 2-16 season last year to maybe hosting a prelim game or possibly getting a bye is pretty good,” said senior forward Tyler Eddy. “I shouldn’t say I’m surprised because I thought we’d be a lot better, but I am a little surprised with how well we’re doing.”
The solid start under first-year head coach Jason Coleman has elevated Orono to sixth place in the Eastern Class C rankings, which would earn the Red Riots a preliminary-round home game if the playoffs were to start today and is just one spot short of gaining a first-round bye.
The Red Riots have been particularly effective on their home court, where their record is 6-1 after a 55-45 victory over Bucksport on Saturday night.
“Our motto all year has been ‘protect your house and split on the road,’” said Coleman after Orono avenged a 10-point loss at Bucksport earlier in the season. “The kids seem to play with more energy here.”
“The big thing for us is to slow down. We’re learning how to win, but when we’re down by one we want to push, push, push. But when we take our time in the halfcourt set we get pretty good looks.”
One thing Coleman has done this winter is go deep into his bench, with as many as 10 players typically getting quality minutes during games.
“Everyone’s adapting to their role and coming to realize what they need to do personally for the team to get a win,” said junior guard Corey Riemersma, who came off the Orono bench to score 18 points against Bucksport on 6-of-6 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. “That’s probably one of the most important things.”
Eddy, the team’s leading scorer this winter, sees contributions both great and small from throughout the roster as being pivotal to the Red Riots’ rise in the standings.
“Everyone’s giving 100 percent the whole time on the court, and that’s what we asked for at the beginning of the season,” said Eddy, who also was part of his school’s football resurgence last fall when the Red Riots finished with a 9-2 record and earned their first appearance in the LTC Class C championship game since 1996.
“Everyone’s doing it, and it just goes to show that every person out there can contribute to what we’re doing. Hopefully we can keep it going.”