A team with a first-year coach, a relatively young lineup and a new offensive system may seem an unlikely candidate to sit atop the Class B North boys basketball standings with a week left in the regular season.
Yet the Caribou Vikings have parlayed those dynamics into a 13-3 record and a 10-game winning streak after last weekend’s home sweep of Mount Desert Island and Ellsworth.
“We knew the potential was there,” first-year head coach Kyle Corrigan said, “but with the toughness of the Class B schedule, and even our Class C opponents Fort Kent and Houlton are extremely quality opponents, to be 13-3 and riding a 10-game winning streak is really nice.”
Corrigan, a 2008 Caribou graduate and former 1,000-point scorer for the Vikings, became the team’s new head coach in June after Chris Casavant left the post after 20 seasons. Casavant’s attorney, Josh Tardy of Newport, acknowledged at the time that strained relations between the coach and some Caribou parents was a factor in the resignation.
The team’s growing pains under Corrigan were modest. Since their 3-3 start, the Vikings’ transition to a more fast-paced offense has produced an average of 73.1 points per game.
“The first few games we had some good, and we had some bad trying to push the tempo,” Corrigan said.
“But the kids have really figured out when they can run and when they can’t run. They’re still looking to push the tempo whenever they can, but they’re not just throwing passes ahead without thinking anymore.”
The Vikings are led by junior captain Parker Deprey, a 6-foot-1 forward who ranks among the Big East Conference’s leading scorers (19 ppg) and rebounders (8 rpg).
“I actually caught him the other day in a pregame meeting with the team. They didn’t know I was listening, and he was preaching defense,” Corrigan said. “He wasn’t even talking about the offensive side of the ball, and as a coach you love to hear that, especially from one of your leaders.”
Classmate Isaac Marker, a 6-0 forward, averages 13.5 points and has displayed quick-strike ability. He scored 19 points during a five-minute span in a comeback victory over Houlton.
Fourth-year starter Austin Findlen, a 5-11 guard and team captain, averages 12 points and is the lone senior starter. Alex Bouchard, a 5-10 junior guard, averages 10 points and is one of the Big East’s top ball distributors with 5.5 assists per outing.
The fifth starter is 6-0 sophomore forward Sawyer Deprey. Parker Deprey’s younger brother not only averages 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, but he also typically guards the opposing team’s biggest player despite being undersized most nights.
“We’ve got guys who can score the basketball,” Corrigan said. “I still preach that we’ve got to have good shots, we can’t just force bad shots up there.”
Caribou’s faster pace has caught on with a fan base that is turning out for home games in increasing numbers, including a full house for last Friday’s 67-55 win over MDI.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Corrigan, whose team closes out its regular season Saturday at John Bapst in Bangor before hosting rival Presque Isle on Feb. 7. “I think there’s a buzz about this team going around in our community right now.”
Caribou, which lost at home to Belfast in last year’s prelims to finish 6-13, is battling defending state champion Hermon for the top spot in Class B North. Since the top five teams earn first-round byes, the Vikings will reach this February’s regional quarterfinals at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor where they hope to create a similar atmosphere on the tournament stage.
“Once the tournament starts you all have the same end goal and you’re going to have to go through some good teams to get where you want to be,” Corrigan said. “It would be nice to go in No. 1, but we’re just focused on what we can control, and whatever happens and how the chips fall, that’s how it happens.”