Friends and former teammates of Poland boys’ coach Tyler Tracy reacted with joy to his unexpected run to a Class B West title with the Knights.
In a unique twist, Tracy and his former college roommate at the University of Maine at Farmington, Brody Artes, were coaching in back-to-back games Saturday at Cumberland County Civic Center. Artes guided the Windham girls to a surprise berth in the Class A West girls’ final against Catherine McAuley.
Poland was a No. 6 seed. Windham was No. 7 in its region. The two coaches shared an embrace and a high-five after the Knights’ game before the Eagles went about their business.
Tracy’s first assistant coaching position was at Livermore Falls under Travis Magnusson, who later led Dirigo to the 2012 Class C boys’ championship. According to Magnusson, his friend’s reputation as one of the good guys in the local coaching fraternity is no illusion.
“He is an even better guy than he appears to be,” Magnusson said. “I have never seen a coach put in more time than he did the past three summers. It just paid off.”
Poland picked off the top three seeds in the region — Spruce Mountain, Morse and Greely — to win the title. Against Greely, the Knights rallied from a 19-point deficit, then survived having its own 11-point lead trimmed to two in the final minute of regulation.
It will be a homecoming, of sorts, for Tracy, when Poland travels to Cross Insurance Center in Bangor for the state final Friday against Old Town.
Of course, the venerable Bangor Auditorium has been torn down to create parking space for the new arena. But Tracy played at the championship site for Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford.
“Yeah, I’m from the Bangor area, because I guess everything north of Augusta is considered the Bangor area,” Tracy quipped. “I’m just so happy for these kids to have the experience of playing on a Bangor floor. They deserve it.”
Wait ’til next year
Two teams that made deep tournament runs have a consolation prize in common. Both the Edward Little and Spruce Mountain girls will return in 2014-15 with almost their entire rosters intact.
EL, which lost 54-34 to Oxford Hills in the Class A East title game, will bid farewell only to starting point guard Kory Norcross due to graduation.
Coach Craig Jipson said it would be too early to install the Red Eddies as an early favorite, however, even though they’ve been ranked No. 1 in the regular season two straight years and advanced to two of the past three regional finals.
“There’s other teams in our league that are also going to be loaded next year,” said Jipson, noting that No. 2 Lawrence and No. 3 Oxford Hills will return their core, as well. “Our (history) is that it takes us a couple of tries to break through to that next level. Cony had been our nemesis and then we were able to beat them this year in the semifinals, so I hope next year is our breakthrough.”
Spruce Mountain, which reached the Class B West semifinals before falling to Wells for the second straight February, says goodbye to Victoria Ouellette and Ladesta Tracy. Ouellette’s minutes were extremely limited by a chronic knee injury.
“Just both great kids that play hard,” Spruce Mountain coach Gavin Kane said. “It’s just a damn shame Vic had to play through all that. Most kids would have given up, and she continued to battle through constant knee problems and wanted to be a part of this. I can’t even say enough good things about her. So they’ve brought a lot to us. We certainly have a lot of underclassmen for whom it can be a bright future for them, as well. Hopefully we can advance a little farther.”
Based on the usual starting lineup and substitution patterns, the Phoenix top seven of Nicole Hamblin, Kaylee Newcomb, Vanese Barnes, Emily Keene, Sam Richards, Alex Bessey and Emily Hogan will be back for a move from the Class C-dominated MVC to the Class B-heavy KVAC.
Not all fun and games
The tournament in Portland was interrupted by an unusual and scary scene — an ambulance rushing to the arena to treat an injured player on back-to-back nights.
Portland’s Elizabeth Donato was knocked unconscious Friday after colliding with a McAuley player and hitting her head on the floor. Donato was taken to a Portland hospital for tests and observation and was said to be doing better Saturday.
In Saturday night’s Class A West girls’ final, Windham’s Luisa Sbardella also clashed heads with a McAuley opponent and fell to the court. Sbardella complained of neck pain, and Maine Principals’ Association media liaison Keith Weatherbie said that she was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Sbardella later returned to the civic center and traveled home with her teammates, according to media reports.
At the Augusta Civic Center, the father of an Oxford Hills girls’ player fell from near the bottom of the stairs to the floor behind the Hampden Academy bench during Friday night’s Eastern A boys’ championship. Among the first to rush to the man’s aid were Hampden Academy players, including tournament Most Valuable Player Zach Gilpin.
The game was delayed a few minutes while emergency personnel, who had just left the arena for the night, were called back and took the man, who was conscious, to a local hospital.
Several Oxford Hills fans made it a point to thank the Hampden players for their hustle after the game.