Bangor High School’s Matt Fleming (10) blocks a shot by Edward Little High School’s Ibn Khalid during their game in Auburn on Tuesday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)
Fitting in with a new team and a new school takes time, but with no seniors on his team, Bangor junior forward Matt Fleming can afford to focus on his and the Bangor Rams’ long-term development.
Fleming, who is in his first year at Bangor after transferring from Oxford Hills, is still trying to learn how to play with his teammates and they with him.
The Rams are 5-4 and a bit frustrated by some winnable games that slipped through their fingers late. Fleming believes those games will end up in the win column with time and experience playing together.
“We just need to work on finishing at the end of games,” he said.
“We have started to play better together but there still haven’t been many games where we’ve all been playing well together,” Fleming added. “When we figure out how to play together we’ll be a pretty good team.”
In a conference filled with dynamic duos, Fleming and co-captain Damien Vance, a junior guard, give Bangor a chance to compete in Class AA North. Fleming said Vance’s mid-range game and ability to get to the basket complements his game. Defenses usually focus on trying to limit one of them, which opens up opportunities for the other.
“He forces the defense to focus on him and leaves me some room to do my thing sometimes,” Fleming said. “A lot of teams focus on me so that gives him an opportunity to spread out and have a lane to the rim.”
“The key thing is they really like each other, and they are willing to share the ball,” Parker said.
Parker watched the 6-foot-5 Fleming from a distance as he became an AA North first-team all-star last year at Oxford Hills.
“His game is much more versatile than I thought,” Parker said. “I thought you could post him if they put a small guy on him and he was a catch-and-shoot guy, but he can put the ball on the floor and he’s a great rebounder.”
“He’s a great addition for us, a great leader,” Parker said. “If you went to school and just watched him interact around school, you’d think that he grew up in Bangor.”
Fleming said he misses Oxford Hills “a little bit,” but is enjoying his new home. He’s closer to his older brother, Oxford Hills alum Andrew, who is a sophomore forward at the University of Maine.
“He’s seen almost all of our home games, unless he’s travelling for a game,” Fleming said.
Maine has offered Matt a scholarship to join his older brother in Orono starting in 2019. He also reportedly has received an offer from Division II Franklin Pierce University.
Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone came off the bench to score 18 points and play a vital part in the Ramblers comeback from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit before falling to Mountain Valley, 55-53, in the final seconds Thursday.
WilsonFalcone’s output isn’t surprising, considering she’s Winthrop’s leading scorer this season. But that she came off the bench is surprising, considering she’s Winthrop’s leading scorer.
Turns out, it was the sophomore’s turn to start the game on the sidelines. The Ramblers have six starters — WilsonFalcone, Jillian Schmelzer, Kena Souza, Layne Audet, Katie Perkins and Natalie Frost — and they take turns coming off the bench.
“They’ve been great about it,” Winthrop coach Joe Burnham said.
If WilsonFalcone’s output wasn’t surprising, they way she went about it was.
She still played tenacious defense, especially when the Ramblers went to a full-court press in the fourth quarter, and she still knocked the ball away and made steals. But those steals didn’t often translate into easy layups.
So, she had to produce in the halfcourt. That included drives to the hoop, but also a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers and passes to cutting teammates.
“She’s averaging close to 20 points a game, but 16 of those are off defensive steals, and they just weren’t there tonight,” Burnham said. “It frustrated her at first, but she stuck with it, doesn’t let anything bother her, kind of rolls off her, and (she) hit some bit shots for us.”