Senior athletes have ball in final court appearancesPlayers combine for 392 points, 44 3-pointers and handful of electrifying slam dunks
Waldoboro — The teams combined to score nearly 400 points, tossed in 44 3-pointers from the far reaches of the gymnasium, converted a handful of electrifying slam dunks, made a bundle of no-look passes and walked off the court with smiles on their faces and a lifetime of memories in their hearts.
Such was the experience for more than 40 area student-athletes who participated in the second annual Courier Publications/VillageSoup/VStv Midcoast High School Senior Basketball Showcase on Saturday night, March 18 at Medomak Valley High School.
The word "showcase" was the key as the players certainly showcased their amazing court talents one final time in the games and during the exciting halftime 3-point contests.
Additionally, the event, between games, recognized members of the Vinalhaven girls basketball team that won the state Class D championship — the coveted gold ball — a few weeks ago in Bangor.
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There was plenty of friendships made, bonds created and camaraderie demonstrated during the event from the teenagers, as well as a boatload of sportsmanship demonstrated, as regular-season athletic rivals played on the same teams and collaborated for baskets and sturdy defensive plays.
As is the case with most high school basketball exhibitions, threes rained and reigned on the court as the girls tossed in 15 treys and the boys a whopping 29 3-pointers.
The boys teams combined for 237 points, as both broke the 110-point barrier, while one of the girls squads collected an eye-opening 95 points.
Let it be stated that, as expected, there was little defense played by the teams (it was a mini version of the NBA all-star game), but there were, at times, flashes of strong defensive efforts.
The 3-point contests, new this year, proved hotly-contest and down-to-the-wire affairs. Ultimately, after overtime sessions, Camden Hills' Emily Morse and Belfast's Nolan Woods won the inaugural titles.
Morse and teammate Charlotte Messer were tied after regulation in the girls shootout before Morse won 11-9 in overtime. The boys long-range-shooting contest took two overtimes as Woods finally prevailed over Searsport's Barrett Grant.
The rosters for the event needed to be somewhat fluid until game time due to some invited players unable to participate for a variety of reasons, most notably a rash of injuries.
And the injury bug hit even after the season ended and before the senior showcase event tipped off.
Additionally, to fill the girls squads decimated by injuries and players unable to participate for other reasons, three Oceanside coaches — Sam Bragg, Gabe Duke and Ashley Geel — came out of "retirement" to play a little hoops with the youngsters.
Players were invited to participate by the Courier Publications/VillageSoup/VStv sports staff, after consultation with area coaches. Student-athletes were mixed and paired with volunteer coaches for the games.
The boys coaches were Matt Breen of Oceanside and Dave Pepin of Searsport. The girls coaches were Molly Bishop of Oceanside and Marty Messer of Belfast.
The players were "drafted" for teams by Ken Waltz and Mark Haskell of Courier Publications/VillageSoup/VStv.
The boys invited to participate were: Medomak Valley's Cale Gee, Kyle Donlin, Cameron Allaire, Cameron Martin and Zidane McMurrin; Oceanside's Nate Raye, Sam Atwood and Josef Berger; Searsport's Barrett Grant; Camden Hills' Devin Vangel and Morgan Ford; Islesboro's John Gotham and Avery Grindle; Belfast's Zane Bielenberg, Garrett Hamlin, Nolan Woods and Ian Snowdeal; Vinalhaven's Cody Hamilton and Max Stanley; and Mount View's Devon Davis, Joey Danna, Colby Furrow and Kalvin Croteau.
The girls invited to participate were: Medomak Valley's Amber Hagin and Chelsea Ripley; Oceanside's Jillian Brooks, Alexis Mazurek, Elise Laslavic and Haley Montgomery; Islesboro's Jazmyne Schoppe; Camden Hills' Charlotte Messer, Mara Dostie, Emily Morse and Julia Holt; Belfast's Rainey Knowlton and Hannah Richards; Mount View's Halle Reynolds; Vinalhaven's Rosanna Morel; and Searsport's Karigen Coffin, Paige Ireland, Meghan Grant and Madison Philbrick.
While there were plenty of senior boys who played ball this winter from Searsport to Waldoboro, and the islands, ultimately, there were were only 19 senior girls available for 20 potential spots (10 per team).
After injuries to a number of girls, the pool was whittled to a smaller number, thus the reason coaches were recruited to fill reserve roles.
The White teams, the hosts, represented Waltz and the Blue, Haskell's visitors.
The following were the teams, player combinations and coaches for this year's games:
Waltz girls: Ripley, Brooks, Mazurek, Messer, Morse, Holt, Richards, Reynolds, Grant and Philbrick. Bishop coached the team. Bragg and North Haven graduate Maddie Hallowell were added to the team. Mazurek and Philbrick were unable to play.
Haskell girls: Hagin, Laslavic, Montgomery, Schoppe, Dostie, Knowlton, Morel, Coffin and Ireland. Messer coached the team. Geel and Duke joined that team. Montgomery, Knowlton, Schoppe and Coffin were unable to play.
Waltz boys: Donlin, McMurrin, Raye, Atwood, Ford, Gotham, Grindle, Snowdeal, Hamilton, Davis, Furrow and Croteau. Breen coached the team. Ford and Snowdeal were unable to play.
Haskell boys: Gee, Allaire, Martin, Berger, Grant, Vangel, Bielenberg, Hamlin, Woods, Stanley and Danna. Pepin coached the team.
Breen and Pepin are the boys coaches at their schools. Bishop is the athletic director at Oceanside and former girls coach at several schools, most notably Richmond. Messer coaches the Belfast boys, but has coached girls teams in the past.
The volunteer officials were Dave Ames, Bill Stuart, Chris Barstow and Juan Alcala.
Barrett Grant and Hamilton also were noted for having reached 1,000 career points this season.
The Vinalhaven girls team members who brought the gold ball, the state-championship nets and regional championship plaque to the mainland and Saturday's game were assistant coach Sam Bickford and players Cheyenne Bickford, Déja Doughty, Paige Dennison and Morel.
In Saturday night's girls game, White raced to a 95-61 win, as the squad led 19-15, 39-32 and 70-42 at the quarter breaks.
Messer and Reynolds were the court leaders as they tallied 24 and 23 points, respectively. Holt added 12; Brooks, 11; Ripley, nine; Hallowell, six; and Richards and Grant, four.
The squad made both free throws (by Brooks) and netted nine 3-pointers, including three from Reynolds, two from Messer and Hallowell and one from Ripley and Brooks.
For Blue, Laslavic and Dostie matched points with 16, while Geel added 10; Ireland, nine; Morse, six; and Morel, four. The team made 1-of-2 foul shots (from Dostie).
In a tremendous show of sportsmanship and the true spirit of the event, Richards, who recently had shoulder surgery and arrived at the event with her right shooting arm in sling, was put into the game once in each half and scored close-range hoops shooting left-handed.
The game also was fun because it pitted teammates against one another, with them often guarding one another, as was the case with Messer and Dostie, who seemed to enjoy their friendly teammate rivalry.
The boys contest was a fast-paced, high-flying affair with tremendous passes, 3-pointers and slam dunks the order of the day. It also was fun to see competitive regular-season rival players collaborate on to make plays on the same team.
Blue made a few more plays down the stretch to pull out a 122-115 win. White led 35-28, 58-54 and 96-83 at the quarter breaks, but fell short in the end.
Keying the winners was Allaire, who pumped in 31 points in the final game on his home court, including a 3-pointer and a handful of crowd-pleasing slam dunks. The 6-foot 7-inch center had plenty of help as Vangel netted 19 points, Bielenberg 18 and Woods 17.
Also scoring for Blue were Hamlin with nine; Grant, eight; Stanley, seven; Danna, five; Martin, four; Berger, two; and Gee, one.
The squad made 2-of-6 free throws (33 percent) and 15 treys, including five from Woods, the 3-point shooting champ, three from Vangel and two from Bielenberg and one from Allaire, Hamlin and Danna.
For White, Donlin, who had his own raucous cheering section (the popular Kyle Donlin Fan Club), led the way with 25 points in his home gymnasium, while Furrow added 17; McMurrin, 15; Croteau and Raye, 12; Atwood, nine; Grindle, seven; Hamilton, six; and Gotham and Davis, four.
The team made 5-of-7 free throws (29 percent) and 14 treys, including four from Raye, three from Donlin and Furrow, two from Croteau and one from Atwood and Grindle.
Among the highlights of the game was the energy brought to the court by McMurrin and Vangel, who made a bundle of electrifying drives, passes and steals.
McMurrin's effort proved especially fun as he often put on his own "Harlem Globetrotter"-like performance, keeping the crowd, his teammates and opponents smiling. He was the court jester and brought positive life to the event.
Additional event information
There were 3-point shooting contests at halftime of the games. There were five girls and five boys who shot. They tossed up five shots from three spots behind the arc, as each made basket counted for one point and the final ball in each rack was worth two points. Each player had one minute to shoot all 15 balls. The players who participated in the event were determined at the morning practices.
Those who earned the right to compete in the 3-point contests were Barrett Grant, Woods, Danna, Grindle, Furrow, Laslavic, Morse, Messer, Holt and Meghan Grant.
The national anthem was sung by Medomak Valley High School students: Senior Juno Buendia, junior Hailie Brown and sophomores Allison Lupien and Emily Lupien.
The lead sponsor of the event was Bangor Savings Bank, 73 Camden Street in Rockland. KDK (screen printing, embroidery and signs), 33 Shepard Drive in Thomaston was the apparel sponsor of the event.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the participating schools' athletic departments and used for a variety of sports program needs.
A printed program that included photos of the players, coaches and officials, along with statistical and other information, was available at the games and appeared in the March 16 editions of The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal newspapers.
The games usually include 20 girls and 20 boys playing in separate court affairs. And, as an added twist, players selected from the same school, who normally are teammates, often are placed on separate teams and pitted against one another for this event.
Players invited to participate in the event were notified with a formal letter to their schools. Players also practiced with their teammates and coach at the event site the morning of the games.
For the second straight year, Midcoast high school senior basketball players had a day and venue to showcase their impressive court talents one final time for family, friends and fans.
Last year's inaugural games were on March 26 at Oceanside High School in Rockland.
The 2016 girls and boys games — which often turned into 3-point shooting contests — proved a delight in so many ways, to the girls coming down to the final seconds to determine a winner and the boys combining for nearly 200 points — while sinking 24 3-pointers and one thunderous dunk.
Structure was thrown out the window, for the most part, and the Oceanside gymnasium became another driveway or playground court for fun-filled, pickup games.
The games included three 1,000-point scorers, a coach with more than 300 victories and a Mr. Maine Basketball nominee.
Every player appeared to walk off the court, after representing their schools for the final time, with smiles on their faces, and perhaps new friendships and new found respect for other area hoopsters.
At the end of the exhibitions or showcase event, the White teams prevailed — 54-52 in the girls game and 114-83 for the boys.
The games were extended to four 10-minute quarters.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media nearly 35 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon, who lives in North Carolina.
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