There was reason to be optimistic as the basketball season approached.
The Monmouth Academy girls’ team were returning most of last year’s club and significant improvement was expected to follow.
That all changed before the season even started. The Mustangs lost three starters to injuries during soccer season. Suddenly, Monmouth was back to square one. Without veterans like juniors Danielle Bumann and Sierra Spencer and sophomore Ashley Coulombe, the Mustangs had just three seniors.
“We were really excited with everybody and knew it was going to be a good team,” said sophomore guard Kylie Kemp. “Then we lost them and they were all starters.Then we lost one of our nonstarters and we only had like six people. But we work well together and know everybody well.”
Monmouth had to dig deep into the junior varsity squad and bolstered its roster with a freshman and six sophomores to go with an abundance of juniors. Still, the Mustangs were young and had some seasoning to do and have been working hard to still earn a playoff spot.
“If we don’t have the injuries we had this year, we wouldn’t be worried about it at all,” said Monmouth coach Scott Wing.
The Mustangs have still been a tough foe and gone 8-9. They’ve had their share of near misses but have still put themselves in position to make the tournament.
“We lost by two points to Spruce Mountain,” said Wing. “We had Mountain Valley by five with a minute and a half to go. We lost by two points to Mt. Abram with a layup at the buzzer that we missed. We played very well at times and then turned around and lost to teams we should have beaten.”
On Tuesday, the Mustangs had to beat Lisbon for a second time and did just that after trailing 12-0 to start the game. That win moved Monmouth into the 12th and last playoff spot in Western C. A win over Hall-Dale Thursday would secure that berth but a loss by Sacopee Valley against Waynflete could do that trick as well. It’s going to be close and every point helps this week.
“The seniors really wanted this,” said Kemp of Tuesday’s must win. “They kept saying ‘We need this. We need this.’ I’m glad we did it for them. So they get to have that chance.”
The conference championship games are taking shape.
The KVAC B girls’ title game is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. at Cony High School. The boys’ game will follow at 7 p.m.
The Leavitt girls (15-2) are still in the running for a rematch with unbeaten Nokomis. The Hornets play at Gardiner Thursday night. A win would likely secure them the No. 2 spot in the conference and a place in Saturday’s game. Gardiner is also 15-2 and could earn the spot instead with a win.
Leavitt lost to Nokomis in the regular season, 61-60, but beat the Warriors in last year’s state game.
The KVAC A game is slated for Monday at Cony. The girls’ game is at 5 p.m. followed by the boys at 7 p.m. Unbeaten Cony has a spot in the girls’ matchup. Edward Little (15-2) is the defending KVAC champ and appears likely to see Cony on Monday. EL lost to the Rams twice this season, 65-64 and 65-56.
The MVC games will be at the Augusta Civic Center on Monday. The girls’ play at 5:30 while the boys’ follow at 7:30 p.m. Spruce Mountain (16-1) will meet Madison (14-3). The Phoenix won the only regular season meeting between the two, 44-37.