Things are always changing in the world of Yankee Small College Conference basketball.
Student-athletes at technical schools such as Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor often are enrolled in two-year programs, are attending night classes or are trying to work jobs while attending school.
That kind of scenario can make it challenging for schools to establish consistency within their athletic programs, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of this winter’s EMCC women’s basketball team.
The Golden Eagles took an impressive 12-4 record into Wednesday night’s game at Central Maine Community College of Auburn.
“I think it’s the best record they’ve had since they’ve had the women’s program,” said first-year coach Gary Sinclair, a longtime high school soccer and basketball coach.
“I think people in the conference have got to say we’re the surprise team,” he added. “They’ve done well.”
It was a quick turnaround for EMCC, which returned only three veterans in Theresa Spieldenner, Nikki Kaulback and Kristina Scoville.
Sinclair, who was hired in October, tracked down as many potential players as he could find. He put together a roster of 11, but lost two players to grades after the first semester.
The remaining players have been productive in putting the Golden Eagles on a path to this month’s YSCC playoffs.
Lubec native Scoville has been one of EMCC’s catalysts. The forward is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds. Her twin sister Kara, a shooting guard (14 ppg), joined the squad this season. Both are 3-point threats.
Kaulback, a former standout at Dirigo High of Dixfield, is the starting point guard. She’s averaging nine points, five assists and four steals.
Spieldenner, who played at Lawrence High in Fairfield, mans the post. She has provided eight points and 10 rebounds per outing.
Former Bangor High performer Caroline Weymouth is another newcomer. The Eagles’ versatile “sixth man” has provided a spark with 10 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists per game.
Julia Nicholas, a veteran of two Woodland High state championship teams, joined the team for the second semester. She is a tenacious rebounder (8 rpg) who also can play guard.
EMCC also relies on forward Elise Littlefield (4 ppg, 5 rpg) of Nokomis High in Newport, backup point guard Amber McIver from Calais, a defensive stalwart, and forward Morgan Royal from Penquis of Milo.
“Half the battle for me is the attitude and I think that’s the big thing with these girls,” he said.
“I think the more we’ve won, the more serious they’ve taken it as far as, look what we can do.”
EMCC has been a solid defensive team that has thrived in zone sets. However, the Golden Eagles often force opponents to play man-to-man, because they are able to maintain a consistent 3-point presence.
EMCC has been balanced offensively, as it can push the ball up the floor and play a fast tempo or settle into a half-court game and runs its offense.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve been able to do a lot of different things,” Sinclair said.
The Golden Eagles’ league foes include CMCC, Southern Maine Community College of South Portland, New Hampshire Technical Institute, the University of Maine-Augusta, Unity College, Vermont Tech and Hesser College (N.H.).
EMCC is trying to get clicking on all cylinders as it prepares for the MSCC playoffs, which begin Feb. 16. Sinclair hopes his team can finish in the top two and earn a bye to the YSCC Final Four, scheduled for Feb. 20-21 at CMCC.
Sinclair, who sees the momentum continue to build for the team, hopes to parlay EMCC’s success into a good recruiting year. In the meantime, the Golden Eagles have significantly raised their goals.
“My biggest thing when we started the year, at first it was to go .500,” Sinclair explained. “At the break we’re sitting 9-2, so we said let’s go to the playoffs and do some damage.
“Now, they’ve got their eyes on going to nationals this year and that’s not a bad goal for them to have.”