It would be easy to look at the Presque Isle girls basketball team’s 13-0 record and assume this season has been a cakewalk, but coach Jeff Hudson begs to differ.
The Wildcats are undefeated and riding a 57-game winning streak after Tuesday night’s 70-33 victory over Fort Kent. Even so, the two-time defending Class B state champions have not been as dominating as last season.
“These girls have overachieved, as far as I’m concerned,” Hudson said. “We’ve had to work a lot harder, but I think these girls have a lot of potential.”
Presque Isle has done some reconfiguring after losing a dynamic, seven-member senior class that featured Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team choice Chandler Guerette.
This team isn’t quite as prolific on offense, nor does it have the overall speed. However, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents by an average of 20.4 points.
Presque Isle has been tested three times, including Saturday at Foxcroft Academy, where the Wildcats edged the Ponies 50-48.
“Lately, we have not played that well,” Hudson said. “We have been playing a little tentative. Instead of playing to win, we’ve been playing not to lose.”
One might think being on the longest curren winning streak for any school in the state is a big advantage. The Wildcats don’t even talk about it.
“It creates a lot of pressure. We’ve created a monster,” said Hudson, who believes each team must be judged on its own merits.
“It’s not fair to anybody,” Hudson said of the emphasis on the streak. “Some of these kids weren’t around two years ago.”
Presque Isle, which has only one senior, has held it together through a combination of talent, experience and improved underclassmen. The Wildcats feature one of the region’s most dynamic players in 5-foot-10 guard Hannah Graham, a junior co-captain.
“It helps when you have the best player on the floor, which I think we usually have in [her],” Hudson said.
Junior Krystal Kingsbury, a 5-foot-8 post player, is the other co-captain.
“It starts with Hannah and Krystal. They’ve had a great year,” Hudson said.
How far this team goes may come down to how well the rest of the contributors perform and whether they can develop the necessary consistency and chemistry.
Sophomore guard Taylor Williams, sophomore center Regan Nelson and senior forward Kaileigh Kinney have been solid, while junior Emma Kinney, freshman Emily Lagerstrom, junior Megan Seward, sophomore Olivia Hudson (the coach’s daughter), junior Jordi Legassie and junior Erin Ackerson also have been in the mix.
“It’s been a good blend. They’ve worked well together, and they work hard every day,” Hudson said.
Presque Isle plays four of its last six games at home, where it hasn’t lost in almost six years, including a Jan. 25 rematch against Mount Desert Island.
Yet perhaps the biggest challenge for the coaching staff has been instilling and maintaining a sense of confidence and belief among the girls.
“We struggle sometimes with our confidence, but you’ve just got to keep fighting,” Hudson said. “They’re winners.”