PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle girls basketball team will hit the end of a five-game road stretch Tuesday night when they travel to Caribou to face the Vikings.
The Wildcats have played seven of their first nine games on the road, but they are still 8-0 and atop the Eastern Maine Class B Heal points.
“Riding the bus doesn’t usually bother us,” said coach Jeff Hudson. “They’re used to doing it with soccer. It’s something we have to deal with, and I think we’ve dealt with it well.”
Tuesday’s game will be the seventh since the start of the school’s break for the holidays.
“We didn’t get much of a Christmas break,” said Hudson.
The Wildcats played Dec. 23 at John Bapst, hosted Foxcroft Academy on Dec. 27, then hit the road again for back-to-back games Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 against Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor. After a short break around New Year’s Day, PI went to Fort Kent on Jan. 3 and Hermon on Saturday. The trip to Caribou is almost a home game because it’s only about 13 miles.
The total for the five straight road games is approximately 887 miles and 17 hours, not including stops for food and to stretch, according to Mapquest data.
“I think we’re starting to feel the effects,” said Hudson. “We were tired at practice today, we had no legs.”
Hudson will be glad to see the schedule become more home-based.
“Physically and mentally, it’s more challenging,” to have a lot of road games in a row, said Hudson. “We’re a veteran team, so I thought we’d be OK, but it’s draining on you.”
The team has still looked good on the floor, he said, but a coach can usually find something to work on.
“We’ve played good defense for the most part,” Hudson said, “but I think we can do better.”
The Wildcats have won by some big margins, but Hudson wants to be sure they’re ready for the tournament, where they could face teams they haven’t seen all season.
Camden Hills of Rockport and Gardiner were also 8-0 as of Monday and sat second and third, respectively, in the Heal points. Two-time Eastern Maine Class B defending champion Nokomis of Newport is in eighth place but is also undefeated at 7-0.
“I still think everything goes through [Nokomis],” said Hudson.
Presque Isle’s depth has been a major part of the Wildcats’ success, according to Hudson.
“The bench has been helpful,” he said, pointing to junior Karlee Bernier and freshmen Hannah Graham and Krystal Kingsbury, in particular.
“I don’t lose anything when I put them on the floor,” Hudson said. “They’re often playing as many minutes as the starters.”
“Sometimes I feel like I have eight starters,” he added.
Bapst’s Abby Pyne recovering from surgery
After playing in only three of her team’s nine games this season, John Bapst sophomore center Abby Pyne has been sidelined after surgery behind her left knee.
Pyne had been in pain since before the start of the high school soccer season. Cortisone shots and therapy were tried initially, according to girls basketball coach Mike Webb, but the pain remained.
“It’s been a tough three months for her,” said her father, Dr. Jay Pyne.
An MRI found cartilage behind her kneecap, and Abby Pyne underwent arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 29 to remove the cartilage.
“Everything went well,” said Webb. “The next morning she was on the bike. It’s not like an ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] or MCL [medial collateral ligament] tear or anything.”
Jay Pyne said his daughter was pushing too hard, though.
“She wants to do more than she should be,” he said.
Pyne’s recovery time is expected to be four to six weeks, said her father.
She is eager for it to be sooner rather than later.
For months, “she was not physically able to get healthy,” Jay Pyne said. “It’s hard to hold her back now.”
She is now undergoing physical therapy. Webb isn’t sure when she will be able to return to the team, but it’s possible she could be back before the tournament.
“The pain’s gone, and that was the issue,” Webb said.
Abby Pyne’s sister, Sarah, is playing, but the junior forward hasn’t recovered fully from a broken collarbone suffered during the soccer season, said Webb.
“She’s about 90 percent,” he said. “She hadn’t touched a basketball [for a long time]. The biggest problem is trying to get her touch and feel back.”
Sneakers for a cure
One task Webb had to go through Monday was buying a new pair of sneakers.
This week coaches are wearing sneakers to support the fight against cancer.
“I need to find a pair of sneakers to go with slacks,” he said, chuckling.