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

It wasn’t the plaque they wanted to hoist, but it was the only one available.

The Bangor High School girls basketball team had hoped to make a run at the Class AA North championship and a state title this season, but COVID-19 dashed their hopes as regional tournament and state championship games were canceled.

That left teams to play abbreviated, 12-game schedules and postseason pod tournaments against teams within their own area.

Bangor won its Big East Conference Class AA-A pod with a 31-28 overtime win over Hampden Academy in the title game and then topped Old Town, the Penobscot Valley Conference Class B winner, 45-34 in a crossover championship game last Friday night.

Bangor finished 12-1 and Old Town completed a successful 12-3 campaign in which its only losses were to Bangor (twice) and Class A Hampden Academy.

Both Bangor and Old Town developed a blueprint for future success.

Jay Kemble’s Rams, with their relentless man-to-man defense, limited teams to 33 points per game, including 26.3 in their three playoff games.

“The kids learned the importance of being team-oriented. You can’t play great team defense without being team-oriented,” Kemble said. “It’s important to learn to trust each other and work together for one common goal.”

He said the defensive intensity was high for both teams in the Hampden game. Bangor held the three-time defending Class A North champs scoreless in overtime.

Kemble said the most noteworthy aspect of the season is that his team established balance. Four different players led Bangor in five different categories: scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.

Senior Libby Fleming was the top scorer (14 points per game) and rebounding (9 rpg). Sophomore point guard Emmie Streams (9 ppg) was tops in assists (6 apg) and junior guard Laela Martinez paced the Rams in steals (3 spg) and is considered their best on-ball defender. The Quinn sisters, sophomore Abbie and freshman Mimi, each averaged two blocked shots per game and complemented Fleming on the boards.

“The good thing about our team is if you shut one player down, somebody else would step up,” Kemble said.

Kemble said he is fortunate to have three guards who can handle the ball in Streams, Martinez and freshman Lily Chandler. He also mentioned the post presence of the 6-foot Quinn sisters and said sophomore forward Taylor Coombs had a tremendous year.

Junior guards Rae Barron and Lane Barron, sophomore guard Cassidy Ireland and 5-11 sophomore forward Lilly Rice continued to improve.

Bangor loses Fleming and forward Maggie Cowperthwaite, who had two of the best defensive games of her career in the title games. Senior Riley Andrews didn’t play due to injury.

Old Town’s Madelyn Arsenault (right) catches the ball during a Jan. 26 home basketball game against Hermon. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Old Town coach Heather Richards said the two games with Bangor and one against Hampden will significantly benefit her team next season. The Coyotes return all but two players.

“The game is quicker, you’re facing bigger bodies and they crash the boards,” Richards said of those matchups. “You learn where you need to be and how to box out. You learn how to use your skills to offset a lack of size or speed. You have to work on your footwork, defensively, to guard quicker players.”

She pointed out that Old Town trailed Bangor by only six points with 45 seconds left in the title game.

“We proved we can play with bigger, more physical teams. It’s a matter of your mindset and being confident when you step on the floor,” she said.

Richards is grateful there was a season because it gave her senior daughter, Hannah Richards, a chance to eclipse 1,000 career points.

Hannah Richards was the only player who averaged double figures with 15 points per game. Payton Cody is the other senior.

With seasoned veterans like Lexi Thibodeau, Maddie Emerson, Maddie Arsenault and Sydney Loring coming back, and being joined by impressive freshmen Saige Evans and Makayla Emerson, Old Town should be a legitimate Class B North contender next winter.