It’s safe to assume first-year Greater Houlton Christian Academy girls basketball coach Clyde Warman doesn’t receive any complaints from his players about playing time.
That’s because he has only seven players and two are eighth-graders.
Eighth-grader Grace Graham has only been with them full-time for a few weeks after completing her middle school season.
That hasn’t stopped the Eagles from going 9-5 entering a Tuesday game against Easton.
That is seven more games than they won in the previous three seasons combined.
The Eagles were 0-18 in 2010-11 and 2011-12 before going 2-16 a year ago.
There are only 13 girls among the 30 students in the high school, prompting Warman to use eighth-graders. They have used their 15-person van for just one road trip.
The rest of the time they carpool or drive to the games themselves or with their parents.
They only have the equivalence of half a gym, space-wise, and because of their low numbers, they sometimes ask parents or alumni to participate in practice so they can work on things in a scrimmage-like setting.
They often practice with the boys team, too.
“It’s difficult. We have to get very creative,” said Warman, who is assisted by Montie Graham. “When we have the alumni or parents, we’ll have them play a zone or man-to-man against us.”
The progression to the dramatic turnaround began several years ago when Warman began coaching the current freshmen in third grade.
One of the freshmen is his daughter, point guard Rylee Warman.
“I called all the parents with students around my daughter’s age to see if we could all get together to play basketball. We got organized and would travel everywhere they would accept us to play. We once lost 48-0 to Fort Kent and 68-10 to Presque Isle. We played as much as we could although we took our lumps,” said coach Warman.
Eventually, it paid off.
Warman coached the middle school team to an undefeated season and the Aroostook League championship a year ago before becoming the head coach at the high school this season.
He never envisioned this much success.
“I thought we might be .500, but I never dreamed we’d be 3-0 to start the season or 9-5 at this point,” said Warman.
The games that gave the Eagles a big boost of confidence were losses to Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics.
Limestone (14-1) was undefeated when it beat Greater Houlton Christian Academy 52-49 on Jan. 7 and 57-48 a week later.
“They hit a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to win the first one and we led by 14 with two minutes left in the half in the second one,” said Warman.
“After those games, the girls had a different mindset,” he said.
They weren’t as nervous, and they had more confidence, he explained.
Warman has two 5-foot-10 girls in sophomore co-captain Colby Walker and freshman forward Makayla Watson.
Walker is averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots a game, according to Warman. She is the team’s top rebounder. Watson has averaged 11 points and five or six rebounds, defends the perimeter well and is able to hit 12-14 foot jumpers.
Warman’s daughter Rylee, at 5-1, is an exceptional ballhandler and has been averaging 15 points and six to seven assists per game.
Freshman guard Jennah Carver (5-5) helps Warman with the ballhandling chores and has averaged seven points and five to six rebounds per game.
Caitlin Miles, a 5-8 forward, is the only senior or junior. She is the team leader and a reliable defender and rebounder, according to Warman.
Eighth-grader Kristen Brewer is the first player off the bench and considered the “best shooter in the school, boy or girl,” by Warman.
“She was nervous at first but has come out of it and has averaged 10 points per game the last two to three weeks. She has a huge upside,” said Warman.
The 5-5 Graham, a guard, is an excellent man-to-man defender, said the coach.
Depth and conditioning are issues, although Warman said he has never finished a game with less than five players so far.
“It’s a great group of girls and we have fantastic coaches,” said GHCA athletic director Barrett Potter. “And our fans have been amazing.”
The future is bright for the Eagles.
The middle school team lost just twice, and Warman will get two eighth-graders next year in 6-footer Bailey Donovan and Jamie Brown.
That will give them eight players.
“The future is exciting. A lot of the Class D teams at the top have a lot of seniors,” said Potter.
Raychel Alley reaches 1,000
Raychel Alley has joined her father, Raymond Alley, in the 1,000-point club.
The Stearns High School of Millinocket forward-guard, who transferred from Hermon High this season, scored 22 points against Bangor Christian on Saturday to reach 1,008 career points.
Her father scored more than 2,000 points in his career at Vinalhaven High School.
Her mother, Kristi Wildman Alley, was also a basketball star at Stearns.
Both parents had stellar careers at Husson University in Bangor.
Raychel Alley is the fifth girl to reach 1,000 points at Stearns. The others are Trisha Ripton (1,582), Darcy Arnold (1,336), Trisha MacDonald (1,086) and Sue Leino (1,032).
Stearns coach Justin Page said Alley was a little tight and nervous early in the season while making the adjustment to her new school, but she has hit her stride and scored 20 or more points in at least six straight games.
Behind Alley, 8-6 Stearns took a three-game winning streak into a Tuesday game against Penobscot Valley of Howland.