Jay Kemble is making his debut as the Bangor High School girls basketball coach this season, becoming the Rams’ third coach in four years.
He has already made a positive first impression on his players.
“The intensity he brings to practice is pretty awesome,” said guard Rowan Andrews, the team’s only senior.
“We love coach Kemble,” junior forward Maggie Cowperthwaite said. “He brings great energy to our team as does [assistant] coach [Don] Erb.
“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Cowperthwaite said.
The Rams built some momentum last winter under second-year head coach Joe Nelson, going 12-8 and reaching the Class AA North semifinals. Bangor had finished 4-15 the previous year.
“We have a lot of athletic kids who can all handle the ball,” said Kemble, a former University of Maine pitcher and assistant baseball coach. “We’re going to have a lot of competition for playing time. We have 10 kids out there we feel really comfortable with.”
He is impressed with the work his players put in during the summer and early fall in preparation for the season.
“A lot of them had really good summers and were relentless in the weight room in the fall,” he said.
“Our work over the summer was super beneficial, and I think you’ll see that on the court this year,” Cowperthwaite said.
The Rams will be tall and long with the likes of the Fleming twins, Libby and Abby, Cowperthwaite, Emily Isaacs, and freshmen Abbie Quinn and Taylor Coombs. They range from 5-foot-8 to 6 feet.
The Flemings, Cowperthwaite and Isaacs are all juniors.
In the backcourt, Bangor has Andrews, junior Allyson Williams, sophomore Hannah Sherwood and freshman Emilyn Streams.
Kemble is not worried about opponents pressing his team.
“We have enough poise, athleticism and ball skills to be able to handle most of the pressure teams throw against us as long as we get to the position we need to be and continue to move to the ball, Kemble said.
Kemble was an assistant last season with Nelson and his specialty was defense.
The Rams allowed an average of just 41.8 points per game and held opponents to 47 points or fewer 12 times. They should be a tenacious and efficient defensive team again this season.
“We stress defense a lot. Defense creates offense,” Cowperthwaite said.
They should also be able to produce plenty of points.
The Flemings, Cowperthwaite and Andrews are all capable of consistently scoring in double figures. Abby Fleming is more of an outside shooter, while Libby can score inside and outside. The trio also rebounds well.
Riley Andrews, the younger sister of Rowan Andrews, saw a lot of action last season but has been lost for the season due to knee surgery.
Freshman Streams, coming off an outstanding soccer season, could be the starting point guard.
“Even though she’s a freshman, she has a good grasp of the game. She knows how to handle the ball and she plays with her head up. And if you watched her play soccer, she’s relentless,” Kemble said.
With Streams playing point, that will allow Andrews to be the shooting guard. Andrews was the point guard last year.
“I’d like to slide [Andrews] to the [shooting] guard because it would enable her to get into better position to score,” Kemble said.
Williams and Isaacs have made improved noticeably, and Sherwood is a versatile player who is quick and athletic.
Coombs and Quinn could also be instant contributors.
“Every team at this level has good players,” Kemble said. “The question is, can you develop enough depth to be able to compete over the course of an entire season, because you’re going to have injuries and games where you’re in foul trouble. So the young kids are going to have to develop and feel confident playing at this level.”
Kemble also praised the team chemistry and believes Bangor has all the pieces it needs to advance past the semifinals this season.
“The freshmen have brought a lot of new energy, and we have a lot of talented returnees. And we work really well together,” Cowperthwaite added.
The Bangor girls open the season Dec. 6 at Portland.