BANGOR, Maine — Rachel (Larlee) Bousquet knows a thing or two about playing on the Bangor Auditorium hardwood as she played with some solid basketball teams at Schenck High School in East Millinocket.
Friday afternoon, after her Foxcroft Academy Ponies had wrapped up a preseason game against Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on that same court, all Bousquet could think about was returning in February.
“There’s nothing like it, nothing like having that feeling of making it [here] and the atmosphere here, and I hope the girls get to experience it,” Bousquet said.
Her Ponies have a great shot to be among the eight Class C teams who will make it to Bangor. Foxcroft, which dropped down from Class B, features a talented cast of nine seniors eager for a postseason run.
“I’m really fortunate to have the group of girls that I have,” Bousquet said.
That senior class includes 6-foot forward Vanessa Lougee, point guard Courtney Withee, fellow guards Mariah Arno and Sabrina Sharrow, forwards Rebekah Flanders, Jasmine Fletcher and Meghan Keane, who will spell Lougee underneath, and Kelsey Boss and Paige Miles, both guards.
Foxcroft earned a berth in the Eastern Maine Class B preliminary round last winter, falling to Mount Desert Island, but Bousquet knows Class C will be tough.
“I think Class C basketball’s competitive just as much as Class B,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Rival Central of Corinth is also playing in Class C this winter, while the Ponies will face familiar foes such as Dexter and Stearns of Millinocket.
The Ponies, Minutemen and Red Devils, along with Fort Kent, defending regional champ George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and Orono, are looming as the top Class C teams in the PVC this winter, but Bousquet knows games aren’t played on paper.
“You can’t take anything lightly whatsoever,” said Bousquet, whose team opens its season Saturday in Fort Kent.
If there’s one thing the Ponies will have on their side, its experience and leadership.
“The one thing we have going for us is that I’ve had a core group that’s made up most of my varsity team for a while,” Bousquet said. “If anything, the girls are real experienced and are starting to kind of feel more comfortable in their roles on the team.”
Lougee, Flanders (5-10), Fletcher (5-9) and Keane (5-10) should give Foxcroft a strong frontcourt presence.
Moving on up
Woodland girls basketball coach Arnie Clark is just fine with his team playing in Class C this season.
After all, his Dragons didn’t lose to a Class C foe in their drive to the Class D state championship last winter, so facing heavyweights such as Calais, Washington Academy of East Machias and Narraguagus of Harrington is just a rite of passage for Clark’s club.
“Our schedule hasn’t changed any,” said Clark, whose team’s slate features eight games with Class C teams and eight more with Class D foes.
“It’s pretty much the same scenario,” said Clark, whose club opens the season Saturday at Machias.
The 2009-10 season will bring some new challenges to the Dragons, who return a talented crew led by 2009 EM Class D tourney MVP Ariel Knights, a senior guard. Also returning are backcourt mates Christine Boomer, a junior, senior Ashley Laking and Taylor Price, a sophomore, along with forwards Molly White, a junior, and sophomores Taylor Cochran and Kelsey Worden.
Woodland won’t be blessed with height — Worden is the team’s tallest player at 5-10 — but the Dragons will counter that with speed on the offensive end and intensity on defense.
“We have good speed, we don’t have big size [but] we have big hearts,” Clark said.
The Dragons, Calais, Washington Academy and Narraguagus all return solid lineups.
“Washington Academy may be the best team down here,” Clark said. “They’re a well-rounded ball team, [coach Gary Wood] has a good mix there.”
Woodland will rely on its championship pedigree, as a number of Clark’s key players played similar roles on the school’s state-championship softball team last spring.
Running to San Diego…
Prior to Saturday, a Maine schoolgirl cross country runner hadn’t qualified for the Footlocker National Championships since Narraguagus of Harrington’s Gladys Ganiel did so in 1994.
Even better, two Pine Tree State runners punched tickets to San Diego over the weekend, as sophomores Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk and Emily Durgin from Cheverus of Portland finished second and seventh, respectively, in the Northeast Regional championship meet on Long Island.
The top 10 runners qualified for the Dec. 12 nationals at Balboa Park in San Diego.
Leonardi, the Class A state champion and New England champion in 2008, traversed the 5K course in 18 minutes, 31.9 seconds while 2009 New England champ Durgin clocked in at 18:38.7.
In the boys race, Brunswick senior Will Geoghegan came close to qualifying, as he finished 11th in 16:16.1.
Tenth-place finisher John Murray of Massachusetts came in at 16:11.2.
The next Maine finisher after Geoghegan was Brunswick teammate Liam Cassidy in 65th, followed by Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Kelton Cullenberg in 75th and Logan Price of Greely in 125th.