As practice proceeded at the Bangor Auditorium, it was inevitable that the infamous dead spots would get discovered.

With each resounding “thud”, members of the Mt. Abram girls’ basketball team began taking mental notes about the locations of each. When the number of thumps increased, coach Doug Lisherness encouraged the counting to stop.

“I said, ‘You can’t memorize all the spots because there are dead spots in every panel,'” said Lisherness.

His Western Class C champs had a tour and practice at the Mecca of Maine basketball Thursday night in preparation for Saturday’s state title game against Dexter. Mt. Abram toured the locker rooms, got acclimated to the court and even did a little climbing, ascending the seating area all the way to the top.

“We all looked down at the court and thought we were going to fall off,” said senior guard Stephanie Coburn.

After owning the Augusta Civic Center floor during the regional tournament, the Roadrunners hope to make themselves at home. Playing in Bangor can be intimidating. Between the noise level and the close confines, not to mention its infamous quirks, like a slippery floor full of dead spots, feeling comfortable can be as important as any game strategy.

“They were very anxious to get dribbling and shooting,” said Lisherness. “I could see that. A lot of it was that they were excited about getting on that court.”

Lisherness ran his girls through a few simple drills and did a brief scrimmage. It was cold and the floor panels were separating, but Lisherness tried to have his team visualize that the building would be full of screaming fans, stifling hot, and that 6-foot-6 Dexter center Mallory Ames would be in their way.

“I personally don’t care for the Bangor floor,” said Coburn. “It came apart, and there were hollow spots. We had to get used to the size of the seats and the number of seats.”

The Roadrunners did like the shooting background. At Augusta, there’s space behind the hoops, much like their own home court, but Bangor has little space behind the baskets. The girls liked the way the rims reacted. Not many teams come away from Bangor liking the way they shot there, but the Roadrunners did.

“The rim, it’s not bouncy,” said senior center Brittany York. “It just felt good shooting there. All the shots were going in.”

Between finding the shooting touch and getting accustomed to the floor, the Roadrunners have no fear about tonight’s match. They approach the showdown with the same confidence displayed in Augusta.

“As long as we play up to our potential, I don’t think it matters what the floor’s like,” said York. “As long as we play as a team like we have our last nine games.

“Our confidence just boosted (in Augusta). If you play with confidence, you’re not nervous. When we’re nervous, we make bad passes and miss easy layups. As long as we stick to our game plan, I believe we have a pretty good chance of winning.”

Part of the Roadrunners (16-6) strategy will be stopping Ames. The senior center averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds in three tournament games. Though the Tigers lost three starters from last year’s state championship team, Ames has been a staple amid Dexter’s string of five straight regional titles. She provides a challenge for York and fellow post player Janessa Thomas.

“I’m hoping that we might have a little more size than Calais or Fort Kent did,” said Lisherness. “You’re not going to shut down Ames, but maybe we can stop her from having one of those huge games.”

The last two state games, Dexter (20-1) has had mixed results. Two years ago, Dirigo had to combat two Ames sisters in Bangor. The Cougars often had three or four players protecting the post, daring Dexter shooters. The Tigers couldn’t beat Dirigo from the outside and lost. Last year, guard Sabrina Cote helped Dexter jump out to a quick lead against Hall-Dale, and the Tigers shot 15-for-26 from the floor.

The Roadrunners have a similar post game that both Dirigo and Hall-Dale possessed and have a solid perimeter group. Mt. Abram hopes to put defensive pressure on the Tigers and increase the tempo. The Tigers also resemble the team of two years ago that doesn’t typically shoot well from the outside.

“All their perimeter players are not really looking to shoot the ball,” said Lisherness. “Their main offensive sets are to get the ball into Ames. Fort Kent was really sagging and they were giving them shots, and they weren’t even looking to shoot the ball.”

Ames should also disrupt the Roadrunners post game. Thomas and York have been Mt. Abram’s strength. Ames, and will make it more difficult offensively.

“I’m not really going to let it get to me,” said York. “I’ve played against a lot of girls that are taller than me.”

With Coburn, Kenni Norton and Logahn Walker able to push the ball and shoot from the outside, the Roadrunners have other options than living off its post game.

Lisherness says his club is pretty relaxed this week, more so than he is. Playing with confidence and poise, the Roadrunners know they simply have to continue executing. A 6-6 center or dead spots in the floor won’t necessarily change that.

“I’m totally excited about the game,” said Coburn. “It’s my last year. I’d never been to the playoffs like this before. I know I’m not nervous. I don’t know about the other girls. For me, I think about it being just a game and then after I think about what game it was.”


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