Levi Ladd didn’t plan to leave Maine Central Institute.
He had one year under his belt as the head coach of the MCI girls basketball team and even though it won only one game during the COVID-pod season a year ago, Ladd, 39, enjoyed his players and felt there was a bright future.
But when he called John Cornett last summer to try to schedule some summer games against the Foxcroft Academy Ponies, Cornett informed him he was no longer the coach.
“I wasn’t looking for a new job but I live in Dexter and my camp is in Milo,” Ladd, the former three-sport athlete at Milo’s Penquis Valley High School, said.
He looked into the job and landed it. And he is having a blast so far.
“I love this team. These kids have great energy. They’re a bunch of gazelles. They can really run,” said Ladd.
So, naturally, he is trying to capitalize on his team’s speed and athleticism by implementing a full-court press.
“We press and run until the final buzzer,” he said. “We try to speed the game up. We play hard and we play fast.
“It’s organized chaos,” he said.
His team is 2-2 with wins over Washington Academy of East Machias (63-51) and Orono (65-32) and losses to Mount Desert Island (49-43) and Caribou (55-45). The Ponies played John Bapst on Wednesday night.
Their relentless pressure has enabled them to average 19.5 steals per game. They have turned the ball over 18 times a game and averaged 13.3 fouls per game which goes with that up-tempo, helter-skelter style of play.
The Ponies have a nice blend of veterans and young players and will graduate just three off this team with two being starters.
Junior point guard Annie Raynes and senior forward Kiya Cook are the cornerstones of the team along with junior forward Abby Kapp.
Raynes leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game as well as assists (4.8) and steals (4.8). The athletic Raynes also averages 4.3 rebounds per game.
Cook is averaging 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals.
Knapp is the No. 2 rebounder at 7.3 per outing and she has also averaged 5.5 points.
The top rebounder is senior Meghan Spooner with 7.5 per game and her 1.3 blocked shots tie her with sophomore Halle Page for the team lead in that category.
Spooner also averages two steals per game and 2.5 points along with 1.8 assists.
Page has had a productive season as she is the team’s No. 3 scorer (8.7 ppg) and is second in steals (4.3). Page has also averaged four rebounds.
Another sophomore, Sam Ossenfort, has been good for 5.5 points, 3.3 steals and 1.8 assists while junior Destiny Weymouth is averaging four points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
In addition to his own team, Ladd has been getting involved with players at the middle school and youth levels to establish a pipeline for the future.