A look at the season thus far
Well, here we are more than a third into the winter sports season. We’ve seen ups and downs, upset wins and lopsided losses ... pretty much no different than any other year. Let’s touch some of the bases.
Morse in Class B
The Morse teams are competing in Class B, down from A, and enjoying a modicum of success.
The Morse boys, winless last year, are 2-5 and led in scoring by Matt Munster (seven points per game) and Ted Cole (8.3 ppg), while Munster, Cole, Christopher Paulus and Kevin McKellar are all averaging five rebounds per game.
“Christopher Paulus has been our best defender so far this season, he provides a lot of help to his four teammates,” said head coach Todd Flaherty. “We have competed well in parts of every game so far, but have failed to put together four quarters of our best basketball, which is going to be necessary moving forward.
“We are looking forward to the challenge because we are not looking at any single area of weakness. We can find points by:
1. Improving our defense.
2. Finishing our close-range shots.
3. Reducing our turnovers.
4. Getting to the foul line more often.
5. Getting a fully healthy and available squad for the remainder of our games.
“A little bit of improvement spreading through all aspects of the game, will make us a tough team to beat as the season progresses,” added Flaherty. “The potential is there, but the coaches and players need to do the work that will result in good things happening.”
Up next for Morse is a home game tonight ( 5: 30 p. m.), varsity only, against Nokomis.
The girls have fared slightly better and sit at 3-4.
“ I think our offense is further ahead from where I thought we would be going into this year,” said head coach Mike Hart. “Conversely, our defense is not as far along as I thought we would be. Once we engage ourselves mentally we will be able to turn the corner.”
Hart also knows what it will take to keep the ’Builders on a winning path.
“We need to compete for 32 minutes, so far we have had some outstanding quarters, but have not put four of them together,” allowed Hart. “We also need to work on being mentally ready to play. We need to eliminate the mental errors as it has cost us momentum and allowed the other team a second chance. We need to react better to adversity, this is a game of runs and if our opponents put together a good run we need be able to answer and up the ante.
Scoring leaders so far include Katie Henrikson ( 11.6 ppg), Tori Field ( 10) and Kerry Cummings (nine), while Henrikson has 17 3- pointers and Field nine.
Field leads in steals with 33, followed by Cummings (20) and Henrikson (18), while Sadia Crosby is the top rebounder with 56, followed by Brianna Bigelow (32). Henrikson is the playmaker with a dozen assists and is shooting 82 percent at the foul line.
The Dragons have been a pleasant surprise (5-3) but have a couple of toughies tonight (H, Mt. Blue) and Jan. 13 (H, Hampden) up next.
“Based on our schedule, we know that every game is going to be a battle,” said head coach Todd Hanson. “ The kids have played hard and given a good effort. If we can continue to put forth a solid effort, I think that we’ll be in a position to win at the end of games.
“Our Achilles Heel so far has been giving up offensive rebounds. We have two primary lineups — a smaller quicker group, and then a bigger group. Both have been very susceptible to getting beat on the boards. This is an area we need to improve on. Also, we have not shot the ball very well.
“Against both Bangor and Lewiston, we were under 30 percent from the field. I hate to over simplify it, but when a team makes baskets, the chances of victory dramatically improve!”
Through eight games, scoring leaders include Mitch Black ( 96 points), Trent Anderson (61), Konnor Scarponi (71) and Ryan Black (52), while top rebounders are Black (37), Trent Anderson (40) and Bradford Smith (33). Black also has 29 assists and 31 steals.“This has been an extremely coachable group of kids,” added Hanson. “They work hard each day in practice and have great chemistry. Our goal is to battle it out each night, and put ourselves in position to earn a tournament bid. We feel that if we can get to Augusta, then it’s a wideopen tournament.”
Eagles back on track?
The Mt. Ararat girls (5-2) fell to Cony in a big game in Augusta last week as the Rams surged to 6- 0. Tuesday, the Eagles beat Lewiston 46-23 and visited Messalonskee last night.
“ We compete and have had a chance to win each game we have played this season so far,” said Mt. Ararat coach Kelly LaFountain. “As a team we are rebounding the ball very well and have played very intense defense in all but two of our games. We are right where I thought we would be at this point because of our defense and rebounding.”
Still, there needs to be some improvement in areas and tweaking in others.
“We need to shoot the ball better from the foul line and cut down dramatically on our unforced turnovers,” offered LaFountain. “If we can do these things consistently we will be more successful.”
The Eagles offer up a well- balanced scoring attack. “All of our starters are all within two points per game of each other,” lauded LaFountain, who can boast of Leah Hitchcock (73 points for 10.4 ppg going into last night), Mallory Nelson (66, 9.4 ppg), Kristi Willey (57, 9.1 ppg), Chelsea Crawford (49. 7.0 ppg) and Caitlin LaFountain (49, 7.0 ppg).
In the rebounding department, there are Hitchcock (73), Nelson (58), Molly Estes (38) and Caitlin LaFountain (39).
Mt. Ararat tracks steals and defensive deflections, and statistical leaders include Caitlin LaFountain (19 steals, 28 deflections), Willey ( 17 steals, 16 deflections), Estes ( 15 steals, 17 deflections), Hitchcock (11 steals, 15 deflections) and Nelson (11 steals, 22 deflections).
Mt. Ararat wrestling
The team has been busy with lots of tournament action: Westlake, Noble, Cony Duals, Westbrook.
“ Things are going well,” said coach Erick Jensen. “We had a good tournament in Noble over the holiday, and the kids wrestled well and are improving quickly. Over the next few weeks we should be able to capitalize on the tough early season schedule as the competition reduces somewhat.”
How well the Eagles improve will determine their future. “It comes down to experience,” said Jensen. “The more we wrestle, the better we will compete.”
Going into this weekend, individual records look like this: Jacob Kenney (106, 15-3), Corey Allen (113, 12-6), Emory Hudson (120, 7-8), Levi Yeaton ( 126, 11- 7), Adam Ewing ( 132/ 138, 4- 10), Felipe Gunter (132/138, 12-8), Danny Ewing (152, 10- 9), Joey Burr (160, 4-8), Zach Gray (170, 1-10), Brandon Jusseaume (195, 10-8), Pierce Knorr (220, 5-2), Chad Pine (220, 5-7) and Max Mondonedo (285, 11-9)
Jared Jensen of Brunswick wrestles at 160 and is 14-1.
Like all teams, the Eagles are dealing with a revamped weight-class system.
According to the NFHS, the most significant changes in weight classes in high school wrestling in 23 years have been put in place this winter.
Last spring the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee approved an upward shift of the weight classes, beginning with the 103-pound class moving to 106 pounds, which resulted in new weights for 10 of the 14 classes.
The 14 weight classes approved are 106 (pounds), 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Three middle weight classes — 145, 152 and 160 — were retained, although they are 7-8-9 in order now rather than 8-9-10.
“ The change in weight classes resulted from a three-to-four year process utilizing data from the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Optimal Performance Calculator,” said Dale Pleimann, chair of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee. “The rules committee was able to analyze data from almost 200,000 wrestlers across the country, with the goal to create weight classes that have approximately seven percent of the wrestlers in each weight class.”
The last wholesale shift in weight classes occurred in 1988, when the lowest weight class was increased from 98 to 103 pounds.
“I don’t have a problem with it, it helps the larger weights by keeping a smaller spread between weight classes,” said Jensen. “It’s like anything else, we as coaches will get use to it and make adjustments accordingly.”
First, head coach Shawn Guest on the new weight classes: “I have no idea what National was doing in creating these weight classes,” offered Guest. “They took a spot out of the middle and added one in the heavier classes. Small wrestling states like Maine and others have many more wrestlers in the middle weight classes, so why would you remove one there? Idiotic!
“As far as we are concerned, we have won three of 10 duals,” continued Guest. “Not bad considering we have only had seven wrestlers competing. Injuries and kids quitting the team have caused us to be down to 11 kids when they all show up at the same time, which is a rare occasion.”
Morse wrestlers include Kyle Bonti (5-4), Dylan Harrington (19-3), Gary Stevens (20-3), Wyatt Brackett (23-1), Michael Alvarez (8-4), Michael Armstrong ( 5- 14) and Aidan McGowan (5-4).
“I have no kids weighing over 154 pounds, so you can imagine how many points I am giving away in forfeits,” said Guest. “The kids that have been here every day are doing OK. We placed sixth out of 25 schools at the Hermon Tournament last week with only six wrestlers and we had two champions, a second and third. I guess that is what we have to do to have success down the road in tournaments.
“We have not seen Camden Hills, Mountain Valley or Belfast yet, so winning many more dual meets will be tough to do. I have seen many teams down in numbers this year, including Gardiner with only six kids total, and Lisbon as well appears to be way down.
“There are many reasons, but the bottom line is that this sport is hard work and many in this generation would rather avoid that. I am a little worried about the future of this sport to say the least. I could predict that if numbers stay low like this we may see a single class as dictated by the MPA for all teams in A, B and C down the road.”
Brian Berkemeyer reports that his Freeport indoor track and field squads are slowly rounding into shape with a Western Maine Conference meet set for tonight.
“We will have several individuals trying to qualify for the state meet,” said Berkemeyer. “Taylor Saucier looks good in the 800 and mile. Zac Greene and Harry Stivers should do well in the 200 and 400. On the girls’ side, I look for Alyssa Richardson and Katie O’Neil to qualify in the mile and 400, respectively. Several others show some promise.
“We will still need to develop our field events, and Thomas Dodge and Jared Knighton can both long jump, as well as get more numbers. Both of our teams are small so we will still focus on individuals.
“Some kids are working their way back and just about all should be back by the second meet. We are small, but they are a great group of kids to coach.”
The Freeport girls basketball team is still going strong despite the absence of point guard Aubrey Pennell, out with a back injury.
The Falcons are 3-3 and visit Falmouth tonight
“ I don’t think we are exactly where we wanted to be, but not far off,” said second- year coach Jen Chon. “I was hoping to go into the Christmas break at least with three wins under our belt, but we let our game at Wells slip away from us.
“On a positive note, and something I have stated all along, is that we have contended with every team we have played. Although we lost to Lake Region by 25, we were only down by seven at the half and 10 going into the fourth. We also put up a great challenge down at York and played hard to the very last second. Only losing by six points was a great success for us and I was very proud of my girls.”
Chon hopes her Falcons can become a smarter team down the road.
“As a team we need to learn to win, learn to hold our composure, and learn how to play smart basketball in the last few minutes of the game, as well as learn to be an offensive threat in the fourth quarter,” said Chon. “Our scoring has picked up from last year, but our fourth quarter scoring has not helped us win games. We also need to learn each other’s roles on the team and the go-to players that we want the ball going to.”
Nina Davenport leads with 110 points and 61 rebounds, while Leigh Wyman checks in with 44 points, Morgan Brown 37 points and 43 rebounds and Jacelyn Davee 21 rebounds. Wyman is also a top playmaker and steals leader.
“During our Christmas break we won four out of five games and gained confidence to get us where we want to be after the break and we are excited to be back at home (a 53--52 win over Yarmouth on Wednesday),” added Chon. “We have been on the road for the last four games and that has been hard on us. We are excited about our upcoming schedule and hope to continue to contend with every team and learn to pull through games with our intensity and fast-paced style.
“Another positive note: Aubrey goes to the doctor’s on Jan. 18 with the hopes she will get cleared to play!! She is doing fantastic in her physical therapy and our hope is to have her back soon. We have missed her point-guard abilities more than anyone has realized, and her being a part of this team will only make us more of a team to contend with.
“I still feel like our team has what it takes to win and we hope to show that in the next two months!”
Starting on Jan. 10 with Fryeburg, the Falcons will enjoy a five-game, 11-day stretch at home.
GEORGE ALMASI is the Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org