Good news for the Medomak Valley of Waldoboro boys basketball team may be bad news for the Panthers’ Eastern Maine Class B rivals.
That dose of good news was the return to action Tuesday night of 6-foot-8 junior center John Murray, back exactly five weeks after being sidelined with a left knee injury.
Murray played about 14 minutes in Medomak Valley’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference match-up at Camden Hills of Rockport, with Panthers coach Nick DePatsy inserting him into the lineup for stretches of three or four minutes at a time.
“We’ve got to take it easy with him,” said DePatsy. “John wants to go gung-ho, but we can’t do that yet. Actually I probably played him a few more minutes [Tuesday night] than I thought we would, but he looked pretty good out there.”
Murray, who averaged 16.7 points in the three full games this season before he was injured, contributed 15 points and eight rebounds as Medomak Valley earned a 74-62 victory over Camden Hills to improve its record to 11-2, good for second place in Eastern Maine Class B.
“Today I was supposed to have limited minutes,” said Murray after the game. “What I did wasn’t too much, but it felt good to be out there. Obviously, I want to play, but I don’t want to make this a big thing and blow it out.”
Perhaps the best indication of Murray’s fitness level came midway through the third quarter, when he grabbed a defensive rebound at one end. He then sprinted to the other end of the court where he took a quick entry pass from teammate Deering Genthner and scored his second basket in as many possessions to give Medomak Valley a 49-33 lead.
“I’m surprisingly shocked I wasn’t winded [Tuesday night],” said Murray, “but that’s because I’ve been on the bike and treadmill trying to keep my legs in shape. I wanted to do more.”
Murray’s inside presence helped free up space on the perimeter for his teammates, particularly senior guard Isaac Greenrose, who made five of seven shots from beyond the 3-point arc and scored 27 points against the Windjammers.
“He’s 6-8, and that will help anyone,” said Greenrose. “It was big to have him back. Our inside-offense is just totally different with him, so it helps a lot to have him back.”
Murray, who as a sophomore helped Medomak Valley compile a 14-5 record and reach the Eastern Class B quarterfinals, was injured in the opening moment of the Panthers’ 69-58 victory at Belfast on Dec. 20.
No surgery was required, only patience.
“It’s been rough,” Murray said. “For about the first 2½ weeks I couldn’t do anything, I had to be on crutches watching practice and watching games. But I gradually was able to do my jump shots and my foul shots, and then my trainer Mike got me into working on the bike and my orthopaedic doctor said I could start running straight lines, and now I’m almost at 100 percent.”
Murray said he got his doctor’s OK to return to action last week, then participated in two full practices before seeing game duty Tuesday.
“He makes us bigger, but it slows us down a little bit because we’ve had some success running and cutting and using a Princeton-type of offense,” said DePatsy. “But he’s big in the middle, he plugs the hole, and once he gets more comfortable with his knee and stronger with his cutting he’ll be even bigger for us.”
Medomak Valley fared well while Murray was sidelined, winning eight of nine games.
“I think we’ve been playing well and with a lot of confidence without Murray, and the bench has stepped up,” said DePatsy. “Mentally we’re more focused and we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve just got to keep it up.”
DePatsy credits the veterans on the Panthers’ roster for helping the team thrive during Murray’s absence.
“Isaac and Shane [Osier] and Alex [Greenrose, Isaac’s twin brother], the seniors, have really done a great job of leading us,” said DePatsy, whose team is scheduled to host Belfast on Thursday night.
“We’ve had some huge wins on the road beating teams like Winslow and Nokomis [of Newport],” DePatsy added. “Those were big for us, real confidence builders. We’ve had different kids step up for us every night. We’ve got six or seven seniors, and when you play on the road your seniors have to play well or you’re not going to win against a program like Camden Hills, and our seniors have played very well.”
Spirit of the Game nominees sought
Organizers of the Maine McDonald’s High School Senior All-Star Basketball Games are seeking nominations for the 2012 Maine McDonald’s Spirit of the Game Award. Two high school seniors — one from the East and one from the West — will be honored March 9-10 during Maine McDonald’s High School Senior All-Star Weekend at Husson University in Bangor.
The Maine McDonald’s Spirit of the Game Award was created in 2009 to honor two high school seniors who embody the spirit of the sport, exemplify sportsmanship and support and inspire their teammates and coaching staff while showing an ability to overcome obstacles and boundaries. In 2010, the awards were renamed to honor inaugural recipients Joshua Titus of Auburn and Patrick Thibodeau of Cumberland.
Spirit of the Game Award nomination forms may be downloaded or completed electronically by visitng vote.mainemcdonaldsbasketball.org/public-voting and clicking on Josh Titus and Patrick Thibodeau Spirit of the Game Award.
To request a nomination form in the mail, call Kevin Mitchell at 755-9470, ext. 105.
The deadline to receive nominations is Feb. 13.