The Bangor High School girls basketball team practices in the gym on Jan. 4. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

The Bangor High School girls basketball team appeared to be capable of being a legitimate Class AA North contender this season.

The Rams returned six prominent players from the 13-7 squad that lost to Portland in the regional semifinals. The goals changed when COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the Maine Principals’ Association tournaments this winter.

Instead, coach Jay Kemble’s team is pursuing excellence in its area competition while also preparing for the 2021-22 season.

Bangor improved to 7-1 on Monday night with its 45-41 come-from-behind overtime victory over three-time defending Class A North champion Hampden Academy.

“You want to get our kids experience against good competition and we were able to do that [against Hampden],” Kemble said. “You’ve got to count on those kids to get better. We’ve got pretty good athletes.”

In that game, six freshmen and sophomores and junior guard Laela Martinez, a transfer from Baltimore, received valuable playing time against a top-notch opponent that had dealt the Rams their only loss.

Those seven players are the building blocks for the future and Kemble will have six of them for at least two more years.

Dynamic sophomore point guard Emmie Streams is a second-year starter, while 6-foot sophomore forward Abbie Quinn, who played significant minutes last season, is coming off a broken wrist.

Sophomores Taylor Coombs and Cassidy Ireland and freshmen Lily Chandler and Amelia Quinn, Abbie’s sister, also contributed to the victory over Hampden Academy, as did Martinez.

“It’s always one game at a time, but we’re also definitely planning for next year,” Quinn said. “We’re building our program and our team. We have a lot of depth and a lot of good players coming up, too.”

Kemble said the continued development of players such as Chandler, Amelia Quinn and Coombs this winter has been notable.

“We should have a pretty good chance in AA next year,” Coombs said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids coming up. Our two freshmen are getting experience and they’re both very good. We should be pretty experienced.”

The Rams will graduate veteran forwards Libby Fleming and Maggie Cowperthwaite, who have played a lot of basketball for the Rams.

Bangor also has incurred a couple of player losses. Abby Flynn, Libby’s twin sister who was an important contributor last season, opted not to play and senior Riley Andrews is injured and unable to play.

The result has been more playing time for some of the less-experienced players.

Martinez, a starting guard, is bonding with her teammates while twin guards Lane Barron and Rae Barron, will be seniors next winter and forward Emily Rice will be a junior.

Kemble said his seniors have been exceptional leaders during the different and sometimes difficult pandemic circumstances.

“They play a big part in what we do. We have to keep working hard to get better for next year,” Streams said.

The Rams have set their sights on goals in both the short term and looking ahead.

“Hopefully, this year, we can win the playoffs and, next year, hopefully the gold ball,” Streams said.