Christmas has come early to Stearns High School basketball coach Justin Page.
Page had just one returning starter off a team that went 6-12 and finished ninth in the Eastern Maine Class C Heal Point standings a year ago.
The Minutemen, who lost to Narraguagus of Harrington 43-37 in their preliminary tournament game, are moving to Class D this season. They also graduated 6-foot center Taylor Pelkey, who averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds, and 5-5 guard Alexandria Mooney (12 ppg), leaving Page in a rebuilding mode.
But when Kristi Wildman Alley returned to her hometown and took her four daughters with her, Page gained two starters. One of them tied for 12th among the state’s schoolgirls in scoring a year ago.
Raychel Alley, who is a 5-foot-7 senior guard/forward, ranked 12th in the state and averaged 14.6 points for Class B Hermon last winter. She also dished out 3.1 assists and averaged 1.7 3-pointers (to rank 10th) and 1.3 steals per game.
Hermon went 9-9 and finished 10th in the Heal Points before losing to Camden Hills of Rockport 68-53 in the preliminary round.
Raychel’s younger sister Emma, a freshman, will be the starting point guard for the Minutemen.
Their father is Raymond Alley, who was a 2,000-point scorer at Vinalhaven School and went on to star at Husson University in Bangor. Their mother also played at Husson after a stellar career at Stearns.
“I’m getting a lot of help,” said Page. “Raychel is a really good player. She can finish. Probably the best part of her game is her pull-up jumper from long distance. She is a great pull-up jump shooter.”
He also said she is athletic and long and jumps very well and that enables her to be a quality defender as well.
Page has already informed Raychel Alley that she is “going to have to carry us from time to time.
“She said she was happy with that role. She said she is used to that type of pressure,” said Page. “We’re going to try to free her up as much as we can.”
Page is also excited about having her sister running the offense.
“She’s [Emma] a decent shooter and will get better the more she does it,” said Page. “She isn’t as deadly an outside shooter as Raychel but she might get there. She’s very, very quick. She might even be a little quicker than Raychel. And she takes care of the ball pretty well for a freshman.
“We’ve played just one exhibition game and she didn’t have any turnovers. She didn’t make any bad passes,” said Page.
Page won’t have much size so he plans to play a pressing, uptempo style of game with the Alleys and sophomore guard Jessica Girsa playing pivotal roles. Girsa is the only returning starter.
“They’re all very quick so we’ll hope to get some steals and layups off transition,” said Page. “We have plays [for a half-court offense] but we don’t want to use them if we don’t have to. We’ll be doing some new things offensively that we haven’t done in previous years. We’ll be a tough team to match-up with man-to-man.”
He said he will be looking for 15-20 points per game from Raychel Alley, 10-12 from Emma Alley and 8-10 from Girsa.
“I don’t think scoring is going to be a huge issue for us. We’ll score 40-plus points a night,” he predicted. “Rebounding and defensive matchups against teams with height will be an issue.”
Sophomore forward Shelby Pelkey and freshman forward Mackenzie Carter will provide an inside presence and sophomore guard Lauren Jamo is a hard worker, according to Page. Freshman forward Abby Russell will also get plenty of playing time.
Depth could be a problem, because Page said he has only 11 girls in the program between varsity and junior varsity.
“We have a lot of girls involved in dance and show choir and some others who simply decided not to play because they wanted to get a job or do other things,” said Page, who expects his team to make the tournament.