May 30, 2020

MA girls soaring to new heights

Tourney Notebook

Mattanawcook Academy’s 6-foot-5 sophomore center Kimberlee Bennett is believed to be the tallest girl ever to play in an Eastern Maine tournament game.

The schoolgirl basketball tournament started up in 1975 and Bennett is the tallest girl listed in the tourney programs.

According to Mattanawcook Coach Ken Libbey, Bennett, in her third year of playing organized basketball, has been coming along during the season.

“We’ve brought her along,” Libbey said. “She didn’t start in the beginning of the year and didn’t play much that first 5 or 6 games. Then she got a little bit of time. (Her height) is a family thing.”

Bennett’s performance in her first tournament game was impressive. She scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked 8 shots against Fort Kent.

Prior to Bennett, a pair of 6-3 girls held the honors for tallest schoolgirl tourney participants.

Connie Crandlemire, who played for East Grand in 1978 and ’79, and Jane Anderson, who played at Hampden Academy in ’78, were both listed at 6-3, according to the tourney programs.

That ’79 East Grand team also had a pair of 6-2 frontcourt players – Elisa Morse and Phyllis Golding.

For the record books, however, the tallest girl ever to play on the Auditorium floor would probably be Vanderbilt University’s 6-8 freshman center Heidi Gillingham, who played against the University of Maine earlier this season.

In addition to setting a tournament record with her five 3-point field goals, Fort Kent’s Neile Joler also put her name amongst some of the tournament’s most prolific scorers.

Joler’s 30 points placed her in a tie for seventh on the list of high scorers in tournament games.

Former Mattanawcook star Darcy Arnold also scored 30 in a game against Hermon in 1977.

Emily Ellis holds the Class B record with 43 points in 1981.

It’s been a long time coming, but it sure is nice to see Southern Aroostook Community High School living up to its name. As a school, it has finally come together as a community, and it shows.

The teams, and the fans, have the inner and outer spirit of unity that was lacking just a few short years ago. All one has to do is look at the faces of the girls who play for Tom Berry to realize they are a team, a real team.

There’s a true school spirit now and a new pride that glows from within. No matter how far this year’s Southern Aroostook team goes, the Warriors are sure to join other Aroostook County programs as a dominant force in Eastern Maine schoolgirl basektball tournament history.

Anyone who’s watched Shead of Eastport can’t help but be impressed with these young women. Coach Bob Davis has a team that has learned the importance of good basketball strategy and, most importantly, follows through with that strategy.

Whether its 1-2-3 passing on a regular basis; standing back and waiting for the good, open shot; clearning the lanes; working for the steal; staying with the plan to overcome the full-court press; or regaining composure at critical moments, the Tigers are making it happen.

During the regular season, the Easton boys picked up two relatively easy wins – one by 34 points – over the Bangor Christian Patriots, but Bears Coach Bryan Wright wasn’t worried about an intensity problem entering Monday morning’s Class D quarterfinal.

“A coach always worries about a letdown the third time around, especially when you’ve had a fairly easy time with the team involved,” Wright said. “But the boys really wanted this one bad.”

Wright explained Easton’s 86-63 win over BC enabled the Bears to advance to the semifinal round for the first time in four years. Two years ago, the Bears were frustrated by the loss of freshman center Craig Smith (broken foot) and lost to Ashland. Last year, the Bears lost a one-point buzzer beater to Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.

“The boys definitely had some extra motivation this time around. They wanted to get back in the semis,” Wright said.

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