Schenck High School girls basketball coach Darrick Thompson admitted he has spent many a night trying to figure out how to beat Washburn.
He’s not alone.
That will be the challenge for 23 coaches in Eastern Maine Class D as their teams attempt to unseat the three-time defending state championship Beavers.
Washburn has compiled a 63-3 record over the previous three seasons. Last year, the 22-0 Beavers outscored their four postseason opponents by an average of 27 points.
They graduated just one starter, 6-foot center Olivia Doody, but Bangor Daily News All-Maine honorable mention guard Mackenzie Worcester will be sidelined for at least three weeks with a broken bone in her shooting hand. Worcester has scored 1,007 points in her first two seasons.
“I’ve always thought that no team is invincible but they are the defending three-time state champs and they have just about everybody back. They would have to be the prohibitive favorite,” said Van Buren coach Matt Rossignol, whose Crusaders dealt them their last loss two seasons ago.
“It will take a great night from your team and an off night from Washburn in order to beat them,” said Rossignol. “They have at least four girls who are quicker than your fastest girl and it wears on you.”
Thompson said it is difficult to prepare for Washburn’s speed and relentless pressure which creates a ton of turnovers and transition opportunities and also tires you out.
“It’s hard to duplicate,” said Thompson.
Washburn coach Diana Trams said, “if we can get healthy, we have the potential to be better than last year. We’ll definitely be deeper. Our younger players are more mature now and have more experience.”
Worcester has averaged more than 20 points per game and senior guard Carmen Bragg, who was also an All-Maine honorable mention, averaged 15 points. Nicole Olson, Carsyn Koch and Joan Overman are a trio of top-notch forwards who can each produce 8-10 points and 8-10 rebounds per game.
Koch is an exemplary all-around player, the versatile Olson is a great rebounder and a potential 3-point shooter and Overman, according to Trams, can “jump through the roof. She’s one of the most athletic girls I’ve ever seen.”
Sophomore guard Emmy Churchill is an excellent ballhandler who can also shoot while fellow sophomores Natalie Doody and Grace Braley and junior Hannah Heald provide a formidable inside presence.
Schenck of East Millinocket went 17-5 last season and reached the EM finals, where it was upended by Washburn 71-39.
The Wolverines graduated one starter in Kristin Thompson, who averaged 12 points.
But 5-foot-10 senior guard Morgan Thompson, Darrick’s daughter, heads up an impressive list of returnees after averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds.
They have a trio of solid seasoned senior guards in Katie Stanley, Olivia Lewis and Ashley Leavitt and a pair of productive sophomore guards in Taylor McLaughlin and Chantel Lane.
Junior Lexie Hoxie and sophomore Kayla Falone will supply them with a solid one-two punch in the paint and Thompson is looking for double-digit scoring from them.
“We can go 10 deep. I can see us with two or three different starting lineups,” said coach Thompson.
Van Buren has virtually everybody back off last year’s 15-5 team including Parise Rossignol, a 5-foot-8 guard who is a three-time BDN All-Maine selection. She was a third-team choice as a freshman and a second-teamer the past two seasons.
The University of Maine-bound Rossignol averaged 30.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists last season and has scored 1,847 career points.
Felisha Bouchard, a 5-foot-10 junior, averaged 7.9 rebounds and has a nice shooting touch, according to Matt Rossignol. She is also an effective shot blocker.
Junior guard Courtney Parent has capable double-digit scoring potential and Rossignol has good size inside where junior Emily Dumond and senior Chantal Deveau will be expected to help control the glass. Amanda Sytulek and Kayla Durette give Rossignol two hardworking defenders at the guard spot and point guard Sytulek is “very quick and athletic,” he said.
Machias and Fort Fairfield could also contend, and Class D newcomer Stearns of Millinocket, 6-12 in Class C last season, has been helped significantly by senior transfer Raychel Alley from Hermon and her freshman sister Emma Alley.
Machias (15-5), which lost 87-42 to Washburn in the semifinals, returns four starters in senior Jodie Wood, junior Angel Lyons and sophomores Kate Whitney and Tate Dolley.
“We should be equally as good and maybe a little better than last year,” said Machias coach Brad Prout.
The 5-foot-10 Dolley averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds, Whitney averaged 14 points and point guard Lyons was good for 11 per night.
Larry Gardner’s 15-5 Fort Fairfield Tigers graduated leading scorer Sydney Churchill and he said point production is a concern.
He is hoping senior guard Logan Bubar and 6-foot-2 senior center Whitney McNamee can consistently provide double-digit points and senior Nicole Giberson will anchor the Tigers’ traditionally strong defense along with Janae Libby and Shyla Bouchard.
Raychel Alley averaged 14.6 points and 3.1 assists for Hermon and Emma will be the Stearns point guard.
Limestone-Maine School of Science and Mathematics returns all but one player off last year’s 12-8 team and will be led by sophomore guard Chelsey Pelkey. Penobscot Valley of Howland has a solid nucleus returning from an 11-8 team including Molly McGinn, Amy Hallett and Shaelyn Jones. Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook was 12-7 in 2002-13 and Sable Altvater and Jessica Tucker headline the returnees for new coach Cliff Urquhart.
In Western D, Greenville had 10 freshmen and sophomores a year ago and the quarterfinalists will hope their maturation will pay dividends this season.