September 21, 2019
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Basketball a bonding force for East Millinocket family during championship season and always

Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Schenck coach Darrick Thompson speaks to his son Travis during a break in the action of Monday night's Class D North quarterfinal against Greater Houlton Christian Academy.

It’s just another road trip this weekend for Stephanie Thompson and her daughter Morgan.

The first leg was Friday night’s visit to Williamstown, Massachusetts, to watch the Husson University men’s basketball team and sophomore guard Justin Thompson — Stephanie’s son and Morgan’s brother — face Williams College in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

Then Saturday’s ride back home to East Millinocket will include an afternoon stop at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor where Darrick and Travis Thompson — Stephanie’s husband and their younger son — hope to lead Schenck High School past Forest Hills of Jackman in the Class D state championship game.

Weekends filled with basketball-related travel are nothing new for the Thompsons, but this winter’s run of family success on the court has made life even more hectic than usual.

Stephanie Thompson, better known to Maine high school basketball fans as Stephanie Carter, learned last month that she will be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in August.

Thompson scored 2,167 points while leading Schenck to three straight Class C state championships during the late 1980s and was named 1989 Miss Maine Basketball before playing at the University of Maine and Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

“One my friends in coaching is [Central of Corinth girls basketball coach] Jamie Russell, and ever since I’ve known Jamie he’s called me Stephanie Carter’s husband,” Darrick said.

“I’m good with that. She’s humble. She’s all about her family and her kids. She’s the glue behind us all.”

Last weekend, Darrick Thompson and tournament most valuable player Travis Thompson, the youngest of the three children, led Schenck to the Class D North championship in Bangor, while Justin helped Husson capture the North Atlantic Conference title at the University of Maine at Farmington.

“We’d be lying if we said we didn’t think about it but for it to actually happen is surreal,” said Darrick, who works as a hydroelectric technician for Brookfield Renewable. “The way it’s all played out it’s like a storybook. It’s a fine balance of trying to enjoy it while it’s all happening and still staying focused on the state game.”

That makes the road trips even more exciting these days for Stephanie and Morgan — who like her brothers scored 1,000 points in a Schenck uniform — as they now are not as directly involved in the games.

“At this point they’re really the two biggest supporters we have,” Justin said. “They’ve been balancing my brother’s games and my games this year, and they’ve been at every one they could be at. It’s special to me that they do that.”

Stephanie Thompson largely left the basketball spotlight after graduating from St. Joseph’s College with a nursing degree. She and Darrick married in 1995, and Morgan was born a year later.

Stephanie works as the information technology director at Millinocket Regional Hospital.

But both Stephanie and Darrick encouraged their growing family’s budding interests, which in the Katahdin region inevitably included basketball.

“Growing up I was in the gym all the time during the winter, and even in the summer I had a hoop out front,” Justin said. “I know they played a lot of basketball growing up, and their parents were very invested in them and wanted what was best for them, and that was the same with my parents as well.”

Darrick Thompson first joined the coaching ranks as an assistant at Schenck under Steve Levasseur for five years before seven seasons as the Wolverines’ girls varsity coach. For the past five years he has directed the boys team, which enabled him to coach all three of their children.

Morgan and Justin, the latter a Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice in 2016 and 2017, played in regional championship games for their dad.

Morgan’s 2013 team fell to Washburn in the middle of that school’s run of five straight Class D state titles while Justin’s 2016 club lost to the first of George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill’s three consecutive Class C state championship teams.

Those close calls may have made last weekend’s title win by the Schenck boys team even more satisfying for the family.

“I’m really happy for dad and Trav that they were able to do this,” said Morgan Thompson, who this spring will conclude her graduate studies in business administration and accounting at Husson. “I think they knew they had the team to win Class D this year, they just had to put the pieces together, and they’ve played really well in the tournament.”

Not only did Travis Thompson, the lone senior starter, help achieve that team accomplishment, but he also joined his siblings in the 1,000-point club late in Schenck’s championship-game victory over Jonesport-Beals — though he was among the last to know.

“Darrick and I talked about it and decided we weren’t going to say a word because it would just be a distraction from his ultimate goal of winning a championship,” Stephanie said.

“Then I asked Trav after the game are you glad we didn’t tell you and he said, ‘Yeah, because it would have just added to the pressure.’”

The regional triumph also was a coaching breakthrough for Darrick Thompson, who guided Schenck to its first crown since it won the 2010 Class D state championship.

“I admire Darrick for what he’s done. He definitely has that coaching brain,” Stephanie said. “You can be good at a sport and know a lot about a sport and not necessarily be a great coach or a great motivator, but he’s definitely done well with that.”

While their experiences on the on the court have been memorable, the Thompson family sees playing the sport as providing lessons they hope will continue to serve them well beyond the backyard hoops and gymnasiums that helped shape their growth.

“I think sports in general are a big part of our lives,” Stephanie said. “When they’re not playing it, probably 75 percent of the time it’s on our TV whether it’s basketball or football or whatever.

“You think about how hard you have to work to be successful in sports but it’s the same way really in life, too. We’ve tried to instill that in all the kids and so far, so good. I’m definitely proud of all of them.”



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