BANGOR, Maine — Their fans might not know it, but the story of the 2009-10 Fort Fairfield girls basketball team actually began on Feb. 21, 2009.
That’s when the Tigers pushed Woodland to the brink in the Eastern Maine Class D championship game, but the Dragons left with another crown and motivated the Tigers to return.
With one of the top players in Class D returning in sophomore Amanda Hotham, coach Larry Gardner’s club not only expected to return to Bangor, but to not leave without a title.
Fort Fairfield fulfilled those aspirations Saturday, beating Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 50-38 for the first regional girls basketball championship in the program’s history.
“I had high expectations and so did coach for everyone on the team,” said forward Courtney Churchill, one of two seniors.
The Tigers will battle Western Maine champion Greenville on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. in Augusta for the state title.
Coming into this season, with Woodland moving to Class C, there was going to be a new regional and state champion in Class D.
In the semifinals, when Fort Fairfield met Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook — which had a championship-tested cast of players who were key assets on that school’s last two state championship soccer teams — the Tigers were seen as underdogs, but simply went about their business.
“We didn’t have anything to lose,” said senior forward Kelsie Wilson.
The Tigers won that game 51-42 behind tourney MVP Hotham’s 25 points, and they marched on to the finals, looking to take care of business against a Central Aroostook club that had shellacked them 51-27 on Jan. 27.
“We weren’t leaving this building with a loss [or] another loss to Mars Hill,” said Churchill.
That didn’t happen, and Wilson and Churchill were seen throughout the Auditorium during the boys contest adorned with nets from their title game.
“My smile can’t get wider,” said Churchill. “It’s just amazing, and it’s our senior year, that’s even more incredible. Last year was so close, we had it in our hands and it was taken from us.”
Hotham, who established regional tournament records for most free throws made in a game (15 in the final) and in a tournament (35) had plenty to say about that.
That’s no surprise to her teammates, who say that Hotham is fairly quiet off the court, a stark contrast to her traits on it.
“It’s a whole different Amanda on the floor than off the floor,” said Wilson. “She is just amazing, I can’t even describe it. She’s just so awesome, an all-around good girl. She can keep everybody excited.”
Fort Fairfield has one more piece of business to take care of to complete its preseason mission of winning a state title.
Pratt’s shining moment
When the season started, Mount Desert Island senior Brigitte Pratt figured her shining moment in tourney play would never happen.
But Pratt got into the spotlight Wednesday in the Trojans’ semifinal victory over Winslow, coming in during the final seconds to hit two free throws.
Pratt, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament and sprained the medial collateral ligament in her left knee playing basketball last summer, came in after teammate Jessica Swanson was fouled hard, hit in the eye, and couldn’t shoot.
“I can go in for three minutes a game, and that’s it,” Pratt said.
MDI fell to Nokomis of Newport in the Class B regional final, but Pratt played the final minute of that contest.
With a raucous crowd in the Bangor Auditorium, Pratt was understandably a tad nervous, but after entering to a standing ovation, she calmly sank both shots.
“I’m glad [coach Brent Barker] prepared me two seconds before, and told me that if Jessica couldn’t shoot then I would be going in,” said Pratt.
She didn’t even think she’d be the one attempting the shots.
“I was thinking he’d probably put in India [Ross], because she’s a great foul shooter, but then he looked at me and said ‘go,’” said Pratt.
Pratt, who also plays softball, said she should be ready to go full-time once that season starts in the spring. In the meantime, she’ll finish her senior year shooting 100 percent from the foul line.
“That’s good. I like those stats,” she said with a smile.
Hancocks choose Bryant
Skowhegan field hockey standouts and triplets MaKayla, Mallory and Megan Hancock will attend Bryant University on partial scholarships starting in the fall.
The Hancocks, who signed their respective National Letters of Intent earlier this month, played key roles in leading the Indians to three Class A state championships in four years.
Mallory, a three-year starter, has attended the Disney Field Hockey showcase for two years, and played on the National Futures U16 squad in 2008.
MaKayla, a high honors student, is a top defensive standout who has also been involved with Majestix and U16 squads and, like Mallory, attended the Disney showcase for two years.
Megan, a goalkeeper, tied a school record while giving up only three goals in a span of 18 games during 2007 and ’08. She logged 42 career shutouts in three years, a school and state record.