May 25, 2018
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Penquis basketball star Bess verbally commits to Stonehill in ‘14

Courtesy photo | BDN
Courtesy photo | BDN
Isaiah Bess
By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

LAGRANGE, Maine — Isaiah Bess isn’t certain where he will spend his senior year of high school.

But the Penquis Valley of Milo basketball star has firmed up his college plans.

The 6-foot-4-inch swingman has made a verbal commitment to accept a full athletic scholarship from Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., a member of the NCAA Division II Northeast 10 Conference, beginning in the fall of 2014.

Bess, who led Penquis to the 2013 Class C state championship, also had considered offers from the University of New Hampshire and the University of New Haven. He even had been contacted by the likes of Brown, Columbia, Lehigh and Elon.

After visiting the Stonehill campus with his parents on May 17, he determined that he found the college environment for him.

“I liked the head coach, and I liked the academic opportunities,” said Bess, who indicated that he’d like to study pre-med with an emphasis on sports medicine. “The campus is beautiful, and there’s only 2,700 students there so the class sizes are what I like.

“And it’s not far from [Boston] but just far enough so it’s not like you’re in the city,” said Bess.

Stonehill also has a rich basketball history, having qualified for the Division II Final Four in both 2006 and 2012 under current head coach David McLaughlin, a 1997 graduate of Colby College in Waterville who played basketball for the Mules under legendary coach Dick Whitmore.

The Skyhawks are one of 16 schools in the Northeast 10, the nation’s largest NCAA Division II conference.

Stonehill finished 11-15 overall last winter and 7-15 in Northeast 10 play.

“Last year they had kind of a down year, but the year before they made the Final Four and they’ve been in the Elite Eight before, so it’s a good program,” said Bess.

Bess will be the latest of a number of recent Maine high school standouts to find a collegiate basketball home in the Northeast 10.

Among former Pine Tree State players who went on to play at Stonehill are former Cheverus of Portland star Sean Costigan and ex-Biddeford star Emily Rousseau.

Other Maine players currently in Northeast 10 programs are Tyler McFarland of Camden Hills of Rockport, Alex Furness of Wells, Keegan Hyland of South Portland and Andrew Shaw of Thornton Academy of Saco, all on the roster at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.

Shaw is a former teammate of Bess with the MBNation AAU basketball program for which Bess continues to compete.

Bess averaged 26.5 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game last winter while teaming with classmate Trevor Lyford to lead Penquis to a 21-1 record and the program’s first state title since 2000.

Bess subsequently was named to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine first team.

An honorable mention BDN All-Maine choice after his sophomore year in 2012, Bess was a first-team Penobscot Valley Conference all-star and an Eastern C all-tournament selection for the second straight season in 2013.

He scored his 1,000th career point in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Maine Class C tournament en route to being named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Bess then scored a game-high 27 points as the Patriots defeated Boothbay 61-54 in the state championship game, the final high school game to be played at the Bangor Auditorium.

Bess and his family have been considering him transferring to another high school or to a prep school for his senior year, but he said late last week no decision has been made.

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