February 18, 2020
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Glenburn basketball buddies who went separate ways shine at 3 Bangor area schools

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Hermon’s Isaac Varney gets a rebound as Maine Central Institute's Jose Ignacio Montes-Valverde defends during a tournament game in February 2019. Varney is one of three friends from Glenburn who achieved individual and team basketball success at Bangor area high schools.

As seniors Bryce Lausier, Isaac Varney and Henry Westrich reflect on their high school basketball careers, they’re all getting the same question.

How would a fictitious Glenburn High School team have fared the past four years?

Lausier, Varney and Westrich were among about 60 members of the Glenburn School’s 2016 eighth-grade graduating class, leaving behind a basketball legacy highlighted by two undefeated seasons in three years.

They opted to attend different high schools with Lausier at Hampden Academy, Varney at Hermon and Westrich at Bangor. The trio has combined for a 188-38 record (an .832 winning percentage), two state championships, two 1,000-point scorers and regional and statewide all-star recognition.

All three are likely candidates for this year’s Mr. Basketball award as Maine’s top high school senior player.

“A lot of people have said we should have stuck together in high school and wondered what might have been if there had been a high school in Glenburn,” Lausier said. “We definitely would have wreaked some havoc.

“I think about it once in a while, but we all found different things that we liked in our high schools, and that’s pretty much why we decided on our respective schools.”

Natalie Williams | BDN
Natalie Williams | BDN
Bangor senior Henry Westrich looks for openings as he dribbles during the home game against Hampden Academy on Feb. 4.

Varney and Westrich grew up as teammates in the sprawling small town of Glenburn, capitalizing on any opportunity to pick up a basketball.

“We were able to work off each other and push each other, but we also had fun,” Varney said. “I think that’s sometimes the thing that’s forgotten in basketball, to go out and have fun.”

Lausier joined the duo when he and his family moved from Fort Kent to Glenburn just before his sixth-grade year, and the fun just kept coming.

“We used to play dunk ball back in middle school. We lowered the hoop at my house and put it at 8 feet and had dunk competitions,” Lausier said. “It really wasn’t fair at the time because Isaac was 6-3, and Henry and I were 5-9 or 5-8.”

The trio led their school and travel teams to a combined 37-0 record as sixth graders, and two years later they were the hottest ticket in Glenburn as their eighth-grade teams went 45-0.

Their on-court chemistry was perhaps most evident in their different roles.

“I was definitely a defensive player. I don’t even remember in middle school being that much of a shooter,” Westrich said. “Bryce was pretty much a sharpshooter that could also make it into the lane because even though he wasn’t that big he was pretty big for middle school and the leagues we were playing in.

“Isaac was over 6 feet tall at that point and was just so much bigger than everybody else. He was fast, a slasher type, and I think he was dunking in the seventh grade.”

And while collaboration maximized their team success, competitive juices among the three spurred individual improvement.

“We were friends off the court and definite competitors on the court,” Westrich said. “We were going to take it to each other, and if anything, it would make us work harder against each other.”

Finally Lausier, Varney and Westrich found different reasons to move on to different high schools — mostly involving academic pursuits. Their separation did not diminish their individual basketball growth at the next level.

All three became starters as freshmen.

“We all went three different ways, and it forced each of us to have to pick things up on our end and really work even harder to get better because we were going into new places where we had to re-prove ourselves,” Westrich said.

“I always knew Bryce and Isaac would do that, and they kept me pushing myself just based off our work ethic back in middle school.”

Varney was the first to break through in the high school ranks. He reached the Class B North semifinals as a freshman in 2017 and helped Hermon finish 22-0 and capture the school’s first state championship in boys basketball a year later.

Westrich joined the gold ball club last winter as Bangor went 20-2 and won the Class AA state crown.

Natalie Williams | BDN
Natalie Williams | BDN
Hampden Academy's Bryce Lausier, right, charges toward the basket during the Feb. 4 matchup against Bangor High School.

Lausier has not yet experienced a state championship celebration, but he helped Hampden win the 2018 Class A North title. He has led the Broncos to a 17-1 record and the top seed in the division again this winter.

Lausier also earned Bangor Daily News All-Maine recognition last winter after averaging 19.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

Lausier was 5-foot-9 as a freshman at Hampden but now stands 6-4 1/2.

“I worked pretty hard this last off-season and this year came in with the mentality that if you’re going to stop us you’re going to have to go through me first,” he said.

Lausier and Varney shared another individual milestone this winter, each scoring his 1,000th career point.

At this point, it’s long past a statistical competition from within. All three regularly watch each other’s games, either in person or via live streaming.

“Nowadays I always root for them,” Lausier said. “I love to watch their games, and we all do our respective things well. I wouldn’t say there’s competition with the numbers and stats and accomplishments and everything, but we’re all trying to thrive for the gold ball and the best stats and team success possible.”

Varney’s bid for a second state championship this winter likely ended last month when he suffered a foot injury that is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season.

Lausier and Westrich remain in position to finish their high school careers with new celebrations. Lausier’s Hampden team sits atop Class A North while Westrich’s Bangor club is 15-3 and rated No. 2 in Class AA North.

All three expect to continue playing their chosen sport beyond graduation. Westrich will play at Colby College in Waterville, while Lausier and Varney are still considering their collegiate options.

Maybe someday they’ll return to Glenburn for alumni games, and those should be something else.

“For a small town like Glenburn to have three athletes come through in the same grade and be able to make such impacts on their high school teams and communities is a pretty special thing to see,” Varney said. “I’d love to see Bryce bring home a gold ball for Hampden this year so we could meet up someday for a photo with all of us holding our gold balls. That would be pretty cool.”

 


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