Edward Little’s Ibn Khalid is fouled by Oxford Hills’ Janek Luksza as he heads to the basket during the teams’ season-opening tilt in Auburn earlier this month. Edward Little went on to win the game 58-51. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Since transferring across the river from rival Lewiston and joining his new Edward Little teammates during summer basketball, senior forward Ibn Khalid has slowly become more and more comfortable with his new team.
The sense of urgency to integrate into EL basketball is greater because he is a senior. Khalid said playing with the Eddies during summer and fall basketball and pickup sessions with senior Darby Shea and junior Wol Maiwen jump-started the transition.
“It helped a lot. Our chemistry became better,” Khalid said.
In last Wednesday’s 72-45 win over his old team, Khalid showed the progress he’s made fitting in with his new team with nine points and seven rebounds. But the 6-foot-3 slasher said he still has a ways to go before he’ll feel completely settled in.
“I’m not sure about my role here yet,” Khalid said. “Back at Lewiston, I was used to playing the whole game and taking most of the shots. But here we have a lot of people that can do that.”
Edward Little coach Mike Adams likes Khalid’s ability to create for others off the dribble, but doesn’t want it to override looking for his own shot.
“He’s really good putting the ball on the floor. He’s also, for being a really good player, really unselfish, maybe sometimes too unselfish,” Adams said. “The first couple of weeks of practice we’re, like, ‘Hey, you’re six feet from the basket. We’re not going to get a better shot than that.'”
Into the rivalry fire
The Chris Cifelli era got off to a fast start, as the Edward Little girls’ basketball team opened its season with games against a pair of rivals.
“I’ve told so many people the schedule maker had a sense of humor giving the first-year guy Oxford Hills and Lewiston as the first two,” Cifelli, who took over for Craig Jipson after 12 seasons, said. “But I’ve been really happy with the girls, with how they’ve responded in practice, but also in games of showing a lot of resiliency.”
The Red Eddies were up to the challenge, notching road wins over the Vikings, the defending AA North champion, and the just-across-the-unmerged-town rival Blue Devils. EL suffered its first loss Friday night against Cheverus.
Cifelli, who served as an assistant to Jipson, has taken his predecessor’s program and tweaked it to fit the 2017-18 version of the Red Eddies. Specifically speaking, it’s a smaller brand of ball, since Edward Little, for the first time in a while, doesn’t have a a 5-11 or 6-foot tall player.
“So now we’re able spread people out a little bit more, looking to shoot 3s,” Cifelli said. “So I think there’s just a little bit more — I don’t want to say a little bit more, I think we’re just playing to our strengths, and that’s our quickness. And I really give the girls credit, they’re very intelligent basketball players.”
In Wednesday’s 56-36 win over Lewiston, Edward Little also showed off its depth, as eight players scored. Cifelli said that his film study of Oxford Hills partly inspired the decision to give such a high number of players significant playing time.
“We almost took a page out of (Oxford Hills) coach (Nate) Pelletier’s playbook and just said, ‘We’re going to get a lot more girls in, have more options and hopefully be tougher matchups for people, too, tougher to scout,’” Cifelli said.
Like Edward Little girls, Rangeley’s girls’ team appears to be sporting a lot of depth this season.
Eight of the nine Lakers who played in Friday’s 68-12 win over Buckfield scored (and all had three or more points). That included eighth-graders Winnie LaRochelle and Emily Eastlack, who contributed seven and six points, respectively.
Sure, with the lopsided score, there was plenty of time for several players to see the court for several minutes and have several opportunities to score. But, coach Heidi Deery said, the Lakers plan to use their bench this season because, even though most of the bench players are underclassmen, she thinks the team has many players ready to contribute.
“I don’t’ feel like when we go to our bench that there’s any noticable, like, ‘Oh, she’s got the eighth-graders in or the freshman in,’” Deery said after Friday’s victory. “I feel like we have a real competent skill set among a lot of players. And I hope that as we grow — and they’re working extremely hard in practice to improve every day — that come February we can go that deep.”
League of riches for Richmond
Ever since moving up from Class D to C two years ago, Richmond has been knocking at the Mountain Valley Conference’s door in hopes of strengthening its basketball schedule.
The MVC has finally answered this year, welcoming Richmond as an associate member. The boys’ team showed immediately that the Bobcats belong with wins over Madison, Mountain Valley and Oak Hill before suffering their first loss to fellow conference “newcomer” Spruce Mountain, 49-48 on Friday night.
Three of those first four games were against Class B schools which have enrollments six or seven times those of the East-West Conference schools Richmond played in the past. Richmond coach Phil Houdlette welcomes the challenges the entire MVC schedule presents.
“It’s just more of a grind,” Houdlette said. “You look at the schedule and there are no days off.”
“Everybody’s deep. Everybody’s big. They’re athletic, and they’ve probably played more than we have,” he added. “You’ve just got to persevere.”
The Bobcats have two more tough games before the Christmas break, at Winthrop on Tuesday and home against Boothbay on Thursday.