Ashley Cimino may be the most lauded in Maine schoolgirl basketball player history, but the McAuley of Portland star isn’t the only reason this year’s senior class may be the most talented and deepest in many years.
Three seniors have earned scholarships to play for the University of Maine next fall. Another had a variety of Division I choices but picked one of the top Ivy League programs. Others have NCAA Division II scholarships or are heading to the University of Southern Maine, one of the top Div. III teams in the country. Then there’s Cimino, who will play at national power Stanford.
It makes for an impressive, senior-laden group selected to the 31st Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl Basketball Team.
Cimino and Cony of Augusta’s Cassie Cooper, who is headed for Dartmouth, both earned their second first-team All-Maine selections, while Messalonskee of Oakland’s Chelsea Cooper jumped from third team to the first team. Future University of Maine teammates Emily Rousseau of Biddeford made the leap from second team to first team and Hampden’s Tanna Ross is a first-teamer in her first All-Maine appearance.
Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Christina Mosher, who will join Ross and Rousseau at Maine next year, heads up the second team along with Cony teammates Rachael Mack and Kristi Violette. Skowhegan’s Bethany Sevey and Sanford’s Beth Fredette make up the rest of the second team.
Kate Ross of Morse High in Bath was named to the third team along with Kaylie DeMillo of Jay, McAuley’s Abby Wentworth, Megan Smith of Skowhegan, and Gorham’s Rachele Burns.
The All-Maine team honors the state’s top 15 players, regardless of class, position, or region, as selected by the BDN sports staff with input from coaches, officials, and other basketball observers.
BARKER, a two-time Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference North Division Player of the Year, made a ton of big shots for the Eagles, including a 3-pointer with Cony defenders all over her to send the Eastern Maine Class A title game into overtime. She was named to the all-tourney team.
“Not many kids can hit a 3 with time ticking down with three people on you,” Mt. Blue coach Jeannine Paradis said. “She definitely has learned not to be a quitter and to not stop playing until that final horn sounds.”
Coaches found it nearly impossible to stop Barker – the Miss Maine Basketball finalist is one of the best at creating own her own shot, and she can penetrate, find an open teammate, and knock down a basket from almost anywhere at any time. She’s undecided about college.
“I’m not sure statewide she gets as much recognition as she deserves,” said Hampden coach Ben Greenlaw. “She’s as good one-on-one off the dribble as any player that I’ve coached against and we had a real hard time trying to contain her. She’s one of the best players we saw all year long.”
Barker also had 3.2 steals per game and shot 78 percent from the free-throw line.
CIMINO racked up an impressive list of both national and state honors. In Maine alone she was the Miss Basketball winner, a two-time Gatorade Maine Player of the Year, and a Southern Maine Activities Association first-team all-star as well as the state’s first-ever McDonald’s All-American.
“Her knowledge and experience, it’s just at another level,” Sanford coach Kristy Parent said. “I think she’ll do well in college and she’ll just grow. From what I understand she’s very coachable.”
The SMAA’s leading shot blocker this year with 3.9 per game, the 6-foot-3 Cimino was a tough matchup because she could both alter the opposition’s inside game and shoot from 3-point range. In addition, the experience she gained playing a guard role early in her career helped develop passing skills for those times she faced double-teams. That should also give her an edge as she develops her college game, where she’ll likely be a wing player.
“When she was a freshman she played guard,” Biddeford coach Ron Cote said. “Then she grew and all of the sudden, she’s got the guard skills and she’s now 6-3, she can shoot it and go inside and have an inside game. She’s a very good player.”
COOPER missed 11 regular-season contests after suffering an ankle sprain in December. She was healthy, however, in time for a four-game postseason march that culminated in the second Class A state championship crown and fourth Eastern Maine Class A title and fourth all-tourney honor of her stellar career.
“She made the difference in that game and they don’t win a state championship if she doesn’t come back,” South Portland coach Mike Giordano said. “She’s a kid who was very unselfish, and I think her stats aren’t as good as they could be because she was so unselfish.”
The Dartmouth-bound star whose mother, Deering of Portland’s Maureen Burchill, was an All-Maine third-teamer in 1981 led the Rams in assists (3.4 apg) and steals (4.0 spg) while shooting 70 percent from the free-throw line. She was a first-team all-star in the KVAC South.
Like many of the 6-footers on the All-Maine team this year, Cooper has the height, quickness, and shooting ability to play both inside and outside.
“She’s another 6-foot-1 kid who can play [with her] face to the basket, who is able to get off a 23-, 24-foot jump shot when she gets a little opening, and she’s accurate,” Messalonskee coach Brenda Beckwith said.
Hampden’s ROSS went from sitting on the bench with a knee injury last year to KVAC North first-team honors this year. She also went from playing point guard as a sophomore to more of a forward-guard as a senior, a combination of skills that was tough to defend.
“She’s a very good passer, too,” Nokomis coach Earl Anderson said. “If you put the focus on her, she hits the open player well. You have to help on her, which freed up a lot of her teammates.”
In addition to her scoring, Ross also averaged 7.0 rpg, 2.9 assists, and 1.8 steals while shooting 70.3 percent from the free-throw line. It was the 6-footer’s 37.5 percent from 3-point range, however, that worried many coaches.
“In our home game against Hampden, we had them down by 22, and in the fourth quarter she hit five 3s to help make the game close,” Paradis said. “So we really had to make sure we keyed up on her. She made a couple of shots with my best defender in her face from the 3-point line.”
For all of Cimino’s honors, it was ROUSSEAU who was named the SMAA Player of the Year. She led the conference in scoring and finished her stellar career with 1,554 points, breaking former All-Maine player Heather Briggs’ school record (1,176). Rousseau is the first Biddeford player to be named to the first team since Briggs (1988, 1989).
“She’s developed and put a lot into her game in the last year,” Parent said. “She got stronger, she got quicker, and I think she dedicated herself in the offseason. She’s got all the skills. She elevates off her jump shot, she can take people off the dribble, she anticipates.”
A second-team player last year, point guard Rousseau also averaged 6.9 rebounds per game and led the SMAA with 6 apg. The senior all-star and four-time conference all-star was among the leaders in field-goal percentage (51.0) and free-throw percentage (78.0).
The tough, quick guard also contributed 3.8 spg, which was second highest in the conference.
“She’s amazing. She’s got awful quick hands and she’s a good defender as well,” Giordano said.
FREDETTE, another first-team SMAA player, led the defending Class A state champs back to the Western Maine final this year while averaging a double-double. She was named the Western Maine tourney MVP and has a partial scholarship to Div. II Coker College in Hartsville, S.C.
An honorable mention player last year, Fredette shot 76 percent from the free-throw line and led the SMAA in rebounding.
“She was definitely their go-to person,” Cote said. “She’s got decent size and strength to play inside and also take her game outside and shoot the 3. She’s got good skills. She hits the jump shot off the dribble.”
Many coaches believe MACK to be one of the most underrated players in the state. She was first-team in the KVAC South as well as an Eastern Maine Class A all-tourney player. She had a stellar state final in which she limited Cimino to seven points while scoring 11.
“She’s a tremendous player,” Beckwith said. “She’s got the softest touch, the purest jump shot, she rebounds, plays tremendous defense, she’s a shot blocker.”
Mack was also tough to defend because she could convert at the free-throw line where she shot a KVAC-best 84 percent. She was an All-Maine honorable mention in 2006.
Another KVAC North first-teamer, MOSHER was at times unstoppable inside thanks to her post moves and finishing ability. The 2006 All-Maine third-teamer also had the ability to play outside, which at 6-4 made her hard for teams to defend. Paradis estimated Mosher hit more than half of her 3-point attempts.
“She got significantly better from last year to this year, in my perspective,” Greenlaw said. “All of the teams game-planned for her every single game and she was able to produce. You don’t get as many easy shots around the hoop as you normally get.”
Mosher also displayed other guard-like qualities with a team-high 4.5 apg. She was an 83 percent free-throw shooter. She also averaged a double-double for her career.
An honorable mention the last two years, SEVEY climbed into the top 10 this year. The USM-bound guard was a tough blend of height (5-10) and shooting ability (42.6 percent from the field, including 32 percent from 3-point range).
Sevey, who shot a sparkling 88 percent from the free-throw line, wasn’t purely a catch-and-shoot offensive player, however, as many coaches were wary of her ability to penetrate or score in transition.
“We saw her for a long time and I’m happy we didn’t have to see her again this year,” said Cony coach Paul Vachon, who faced Sevey and the Indians three years in a row in the EM Class A final. “She’s a great 3-point shooter who can really light it up.”
With Cooper out for most of Cony’s regular season, EM Class A tourney MVP VIOLETTE took over with a team-high 17.8 ppg. Her biggest strength, however, was as a rebounder. Vachon has called her the best he’s ever had.
Violette, who may also play at USM, broke her school’s single-season rebounding record and had 21 in the state final.
“Kristi was probably one of the most dominating rebounders I’ve seen in high school girls basketball,” Beckwith said. “… If you had to ask me overall who had a monster season, who got better beginning to end, I’d say Kristi Violette.”
“She was the player who really made that team go,” Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said.
Many coaches believe BURNS is a star in the making.
A 2006 All-Maine honorable mention, the SMAA first-team all-star’s 16.6 ppg average was second only to Rousseau in the SMAA. Burns, whom coaches called an excellent defender, had 3.5 spg.
The Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, DEMILLO was an extremely productive offensive player with a school-record 1,806 career points. She is the first Jay player to be named to the All-Maine team.
DeMillo, who will play at USM next year, was also a first-team all-conference player all four years and was All-Maine honorable mention last year. She was also a 35 percent 3-point shooter while dishing out 4.0 apg and recording 6.0 spg.
Morse’s ROSS, the KVAC South Player of the Year, is one of the most skilled point guards in the state while adding 6 rpg. She handed out 5 apg while creating shots for herself and, like Barker, was a tough player to contain. Ross, who is headed to Div. II Southern New Hampshire, was considered a well-balanced player who was also a tough defender with quick hands.
An athletic, physical forward, SMITH is also headed to Southern New Hampshire on a scholarship. She was the only member of either division of the KVAC to be named both first team and all-defensive team.
Smith shot 56 percent from the floor and also led the Indians with 2.4 spg. An All-Maine honorable mention last year, she posted a double-double average in points and rebounds.
WENTWORTH, who attended Telstar of Bethel before transferring to McAuley for her junior year, was the leading scorer in the Lions’ postseason run. The SMAA first-teamer is undecided on college.
Her athleticism and toughness made it hard for teams to contain her penetration. She was also able to find her teammates (2.5 apg) and contributed on defense (3.2 spg).