Southern Aroostook High School senior forward Makaelyn Porter knew there would be a lot of pressure on her this season.
Initially, the two-time Class D North Tournament Most Valuable Player was going to be the only returning starter off last year’s team, which annexed a second consecutive state championship.
Kylie Vining and Kassidy Mathers graduated, 1,000-point scorer Sydney Brewer decided not to play her final season and Kacy Daggett moved to Rockland.
Daggett returned after all and has helped Porter lead the Warriors from Dyer Brook to a 10-0 record going into a Friday game against Shead High of Eastport.
Porter focused on improving during the off-season and played for an AAU team coached by Husson University head coach Kissy Walker and her assistant, Lauree Gott.
“I played basketball year-round. I’ve definitely gotten better. There’s another level I want to reach and, hopefully, I’ll get there,” Porter said.
Porter will play for Walker again next fall as she plans to attend Husson.
“Playing for [Walker and Gott] was a great experience,” Porter said. “I’m very excited about it. There’s a good vibe there. The coaches really take care of the players. It’s hard to turn a place down that makes you feel so wanted.”
Porter is interested in studying physical therapy.
Walker said Porter, who stands 5-foot-10, will give her more size on the wing since most of her guards are in the 5-4 range.
“She has great court vision, especially on the fast break,” Walker said. “She is very coachable. She can shoot. She’s athletic.”
Walker said Porter needs to get stronger but she has a high basketball IQ and made dramatic strides during the AAU season.
For now, Porter is focused on trying to win a third gold ball. She knew Southern Aroostook was losing a lot of talented players but the returning players stepped up to take on more prominent roles.
“I didn’t expect us to do this well but I’m not shocked. We have people who work really hard and that goes a long way,” Porter said.
Southern Aroostook has built its success on its defense, which has limited opponents to 28.3 points per game.
“The kids have really bought in, especially on the defensive end. That is what has surprised me the most,” eighth-year head coach Cliff Urquhart said. “We aren’t as gifted as we have been offensively. But we’ve been getting it done on the defensive end.”
Porter, a 1,000-point scorer, is averaging 14 points and five rebounds according to Urquhart and the return of 5-11 center Daggett (9 ppg, 12 rpg) has been huge.
Freshman point guard Maddie Russell (13 ppg), who was a valuable substitute as an eighth-grader a year ago, has had a tremendous season, he said. She has been their defensive catalyst.
“She makes things happen. She makes it hard for other teams to get into their offense,” Urquhart said.
Guard-forward Emma Nadeau (6.5 rpg, 2.5 steals per game) and guard Paige Vose (8 ppg), who are first-year starters as juniors, have made noteworthy contributions after playing mostly JV ball last season.
Freshman Callie Russell has provided depth at center.
Urquhart has benefitted over the years from a long list of productive eighth-graders and this year is no exception. Cousins Cami Shields and Madison Shields are the first two players off the bench. Both have already enjoyed double-figure scoring games.
Eighth-graders Lexi Lynn Rackliff and Emmalee Landry also see occasional playing time.