EASTON, Maine — Southern Aroostook did not lose a single player from last year’s team and still fields one of the youngest high school girls basketball teams in the state, but the Warriors didn’t exactly act their age Thursday night.
With an 11-player roster consisting of four eighth-graders, four freshman and three sophomores, Southern Aroostook took it to Easton, the No. 1-ranked team in Class D North heading into the matchup, 48-34.
Southern Aroostook coach Cliff Urquhart, whose team went into the game having played just once in the last 15 days, is looking forward to a more consistent game schedule but still likes what he sees so far from his youthful squad.
“I like the way we run the floor,” he said. “We create offense through turnovers, and we really seem to play well together. Our chemistry is really good at this point and so is our balance.”
The Warriors improved to 5-0, while coach Bryan Shaw’s Bears fell to 5-3.
Easton kept the game reasonably close until midway through the fourth quarter, but Southern Aroostook showed off its inside game during an impressive run over a 1:48 span that turned a 10-point lead into 18.
Southern Aroostook freshman Sydney Brewer played a huge role by scoring six of the points, all of them coming in the paint, and she ended up tallying 14 of her team-high 16 points after intermission.
“We intentionally tried to get the ball inside in the second half,” said Urquhart. “Earlier in the game, we worked inside out and figured out it would open things up inside eventually, and I think it did.”
“We mark [Brewer] and try to hold her down, but she’s been the one who has hurt us the past couple seasons,” Shaw said. “She worked hard and out-hustled us to the ball at times.”
Elise Allen had a huge offensive outing for Easton, notching a season-high 23 points, but the Bears, playing without 5-foot-11 senior center Sara Gilman (high ankle sprain) for the second consecutive game, could not keep up with the size of the visiting Warriors.
A feisty trapping half-court defense spurred Southern Aroostook in the first half. The Warriors forced 12 turnovers over the first 16 minutes, with six of them coming in the first three minutes of a second quarter that saw the visitors increase their lead from five to 14 thanks to a 9-0 flurry. Included in the run was a pair of Kylie Vining hoops, and Makaelyn Porter capped it with a 3-pointer from the wing.
“I think our trap frustrated them some and made them play at our pace,” Urquhart said. “The more possessions we can get, the more we can control the game.”
Allen kept the Bears in contention in the first half thanks to some accurate shooting. She nailed her first five field goal attempts in the opening quarter, all coming from at least 10 feet away from the basket.
Easton scored the final six points of the second quarter to trim the deficit to 26-18, but it could have been closer as the Bears, who reached the bonus with 2:33 left, hit on just four of 11 free throw attempts in the first half.
Vining, a sophomore, notched 10 points for the Warriors, all of them coming in the first half. Sophomore Katelyn Slauenwhite hit a 3-pointer in each half for six points, and Porter also finished with six.
Delaney Leach came off the bench to score six points for Easton, which shot just five for 15 from the foul line.