MILO, Maine — Trevor Lyford was one of the last people to walk out of the Bangor Auditorium after that venerable edifice hosted its final high school basketball tournament game last February.
He took with him quite the memory, that of being part of the final state championship team crowned on that court after Penquis Valley defeated Boothbay for the 2013 Class C title.
The Patriots have undergone a major makeover since then, the result of a heavy graduation toll, the transfer of Bangor Daily News first-team All-Maine wing Isaiah Bess to Hampden Academy for his senior year, and the retirement of head coach Tony Hamlin.
Yet Penquis has kept winning. The Patriots are 8-3 after a 42-30 victory over Piscataquis of Guilford on Tuesday night and ranked fourth in Eastern Maine Class C heading into a road game at Penobscot Valley of Howland on Saturday night.
And Lyford, a 6-foot senior guard, is a major reason why, not only as the primary transitional link between the immediate past and present but as the team’s lone returning starter.
“It’s been a lot different than last year in that we’re a lot younger rather than being senior-laden,” he said, “so I’m trying to do as much as I can on the offensive end and also trying to lead on the defensive end because that’s where we get a lot of our points.”
Lyford, an Eastern Maine Class C all-tournament choice last winter, has picked up his individual scoring out of necessity this season, averaging 22 points per game. He needs just 27 more points to reach 1,000 for his career.
“Last year he had Isaiah Bess with him so there were two scorers,” said Penquis senior point guard Colton Larrabee. “He’s one of the main scorers this year. Obviously I’ve got to pick that up a little bit, but he’s definitely got more weight on his shoulders.”
Lyford’s offensive proficiency has come in the face of defenses designed specifically to contain him, though a break in the schedule when the Patriots played just one game between Dec. 16 and Jan. 2 allowed coach Jason Mills and the team considerable practice time to devote to addressing those challenges.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen a lot of box-and-one,” said Lyford. “To our credit, we had a long stretch earlier in the year when we had one game in 15 days and for a young group that was huge. We got a lot of practice and we got to work a lot on box-and-one.
“You see a box-and-one and you break it, and then the other team has to figure out what to do next,” he said.
But Lyford’s game isn’t all about scoring, as his seven rebounds, four assists and four steals per game this winter will attest.
When Piscataquis focused its defense on Lyford, he contributed 12 points — on just seven field-goal attempts — along with 11 rebounds and five assists.
“Trevor can do a lot of things besides score,” Mills said. “When he’s getting double-teamed and triple-teamed he’s not going to force the issue. He’s going to give the ball up to the open person, and these guys are starting to realize that and getting to the open spots and knocking down the shots.
“He’s just a solid all-around player. Everyone talks about his offense, but I think it’s his all-around game this year and last year that’s been leading us,” he said.
Whether Penquis can challenge the likes of Eastern C favorites Houlton, Washington Academy of East Machias, Calais and Lee Academy come tournament time remains to be determined.
But Lyford likes the direction the Patriots are headed.
“We started the season pretty slow because we’ve got a new roster and we had to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “But we’re figuring it out.”