BANGOR, Maine — Rob Powell has seen a lot of basketball over the years during the Eastern Maine tournaments at the Bangor Auditorium.
This year, the Bangor native enjoyed a new perspective, albeit briefly, from the sideline.
“It’s nice. Now I’m here as a coach,” said Powell, who is an educational technician at Bangor High School.
He made his tourney coaching debut last Friday as an assistant for the Belfast High School girls team under head coach Stanley Strugis.
Yet the 37-year-old Powell is no stranger to the Auditorium. Most recently, he has worked for the Maine Principals’ Association, monitoring the team locker rooms and the hallway on the west side of the building.
Prior to that, he worked for Bass Park doing security.
“I’ve been here [at the tournament] for quite a while, between working for the Auditorium and working out back for the MPA,” he said.
As a student at Bangor High, he served as a manager from 1989-1993. He witnessed several thrillers, including Bangor’s state championship victory over South Portland in 1993.
“When I was manager, I was [sitting] anywhere from the bench, around to the bleacher and a couple times we stood over [on the visitors’ side] with our students to do our stats,” said Powell, a 1998 University of Maine graduate who participated on the track and field team.
He said the night in 2001 when Bangor’s Joe Campbell rebounded Zak Ray’s desperation shot at the buzzer and scored to beat Deering of Portland in the state game also stands out in his mind.
“We knew they [the fans] were coming down [onto the court],” said Powell, who was on security duty. “We told them to go around, but they came right over the chairs, right over me.”
Powell, who lives in Stockton Springs, has been a longtime middle school basketball coach in the area at Veazie and All Saints Catholic School in Bangor. He also coached football for five years at Bangor, seven in Brewer and one at Old Town.
Last fall, he joined the Belfast High football staff.
Kyle Bouchard may have been the most rested player in Eastern Maine entering this year’s high school basketball tournament — and it showed during his postseason debut Tuesday.
The 6-foot-4-inch sophomore forward scored a career-high 41 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in leading top-ranked Houlton to a 72-53 Class C quarterfinal victory over No. 8 Bucksport at the Bangor Auditorium, all that despite not having seen game action for more than 10 days while recovering from wrist and back issues.
“I’ve been taking it easy and just trying to rehabilitate and practice,” said Bouchard of his brief hiatus. “I had almost two weeks off, which is an advantage of being the one seed, so I ran a few days with the team the first week and then I wore a brace and played defense and did some drills. The last few days I taped the wrist up and went out and tried to get into a rhythm for this game.
“(The injuries) bothered me a little bit (Tuesday), but once I got into the flow of the game and with the adrenaline of being at the Auditorium it was OK.”
Bouchard made the first five shots he took against Bucksport — including two from 3-point land while scoring 22 first-half points to help stake the Shiretowners to a 45-18 lead.
“I wanted to come out and definitely assert myself, but if my teammates had open shots or they double-teamed me I would have got them open shots,” said Bouchard, who also had five blocked shots and four assists during the game. “It’s just whoever’s open and whoever’s got the open shot.”
Bouchard, who helped Houlton reach the Eastern C final as a freshman last winter and has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game during the regular season this season, finished the quarterfinal making 17 of his 27 field-goal attempts.
“Kyle’s a great shooter and a super post player, and he’s also a great passer,” said Houlton coach Rob Moran. “He makes everybody else better and he’s like a coach on the fhe floor. He’s fun to coach.”
Moran believes Bouchard’s late-season respite, which included him sitting out the Penobscot Valley Conference championship game against Penquis of Milo, was helpful on multiple fronts.
“He definitely took quite a bit of time off to rest his wrist,” said Moran. “But I think it helped his back, too.”
Bouchard and the 18-1 Shiretowners will return to action Friday night when they face fifth-ranked Calais (15-4) in the EM semifinals.
Isaiah Bess of Penquis Valley didn’t come to the tournament worrying about his career scoring total, but he hit a milestone during Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
Bess joined the 1,000-point club during the Patriots’ 51-23 win over Stearns.
“It was kind of weird,” Bess said of reaching the plateau in Bangor, where he hopes to accomplish a different goal.
“It felt pretty good, because it’s the last year at the ‘Mecca’ and with this team we’ve got a pretty good chance to get to the Eastern Maine [title] game and I’m only a junior,” he added. “All these things are kind of coming together.”
When Ethyn Gould went down with a season-ending ankle injury late last month, the Dexter boys had to fill the void.
Enter Bailey Spack.
The sophomore demonstrated that he’s ready to take on a more prominent role with the team Wednesday when he scored 13 points in the Tigers’ quarterfinal victory over Lee Academy at the Bangor Auditorium.
Spack hit three 3-pointers in the second half and scored all of his points after intermission to help Dexter prevail.
“[Gould] is done for the year and Bailey took his spot,” said Dexter coach Peter Murray. “For the last four or five games, he’s not playing like a sophomore any more. He’s a veteran player and he’s got ice water in his veins.”
The Tigers won Wednesday’s game despite being without one of its key players.
Senior forward Dylan Graffam is no longer on the team because of a disciplinary issue, according to Murray.
“Dylan’s a huge body presence,” said junior Trevor Fogarty. “He’s always helping us whether it’s rebounding on the glass, making baskets around the rim.”
His absence meant Dexter was forced to quickly reconfigure its lineup and some roles on the floor while showing its resilience.
“We knew we had to come together as a team and moments like these define your season,” Fogarty said.