Hampden Academy’s Bailey Donovan (center) drives for the basket between Bangor High School’s Abby Houghton (left) and Abby Feming during the game in Hampden Tuesday evening. Credit: Gabor Degre

Bailey Donovan is an imposing figure.

The Hampden Academy girls basketball team’s senior center stands 6-feet, 3 1/4 inches.

“Everyone else says I’m 6-4,” said Donovan, who is also one heck of a basketball player.

Donovan, a career 1,000-point scorer who is closing in on 700 rebounds, led the Broncos to the Class A North championship a year ago. The No. 2 Broncos (14-4) will begin defense of their title in earnest on Friday when they take on No. 7 Erskine Academy of South China (10-8) in a quarterfinal game at the Augusta Civic Center.

Donovan credits her teammates with enabling her to reach 1,000 points.

“I couldn’t have done it if my teammates didn’t pass me the ball,” Donovan said. “It feels good but it’s kind of a team thing for me.”

She began her love affair with basketball when she was in kindergarten.

“My older sister, Colby, played and our grandfather, John Walker, coached her,” Donovan said. “She was playing peewee basketball, and I was always going to their practices.

“I knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said.

Donovan has improved every year.

She was chosen the Most Valuable Player of the Class A North tournament last season when she averaged 12.3 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“Her size is an obvious feature, but she moves well and uses her body very well,” Brewer High coach Chris Horr said. “She is a very good rebounder, and her size and strength keeps her in spots that are advantageous for her to get rebounds.”

This season, Donovan is averaging 21 points, over 17 rebounds and four blocks while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the foul line.

“She has a real nice [shooting] touch. If she gets the ball inside, she’s going to make her shots,” Bangor coach Joe Nelson said. It’s so hard to keep the ball out of her hands, and she makes her free throws.”

Donovan said her game has evolved.

“I’ve gotten a lot more physical in the post,” Donovan said. “I’ve worked on my composure, and that has helped me out. And I’ve improved my footwork a lot.”

Her gains in agility have enabled her to better guard opponents on the perimeter if needed. She has also worked on her outside shooting with Frank Brillant, father of teammate Alydia Brillant.

“There’s still a lot of work to do on it, but it’s coming along,” said Donovan, who was a Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl Team honorable mention a year ago.

Coach Nick Winchester said Donovan is Hampden Academy’s best 3-point shooter and works on her game all year long.

“She has a presence on the court and a personality off the court,” Winchester said. “She’s a kid who commands a lot of attention. Some kids don’t know how to [deal] with that, but she handles it and has progressed in each of her four years from a maturity standpoint.”

Winchester said Donovan has learned to deal with opponents’ physical play against her and is able to stay out of foul trouble.

Donovan has worked with a physical trainer and spends weekends developing her game with Frank Brillant. Winchester said she gets more blocked shots while helping on defense than she does against her matchup.

“She has had such a huge impact on us,” junior guard Sydney Hodgdon said. “She has improved a ton over the years.”

Winchester said Donovan’s presence has helped move the program to a higher level.

“The success has created an expectation of how kids have to play after she leaves,” he said.

Donovan, who has not made a college choice, said her four years at Hampden Academy have been special.

“Winning the title [last season] was incredible. I’ve loved all the time I’ve spent here,” she said. “It’s sad to see it come to an end, but I’d love to go out with a bang. We’ll see how the tournament goes.”