AUBURN — Susie French had a tough act to follow.

After taking 18 months off from playing basketball, French arrived at Central Maine Community College last season and produced a tremendous year.

She helped lead the Mustangs to a YSCC title and a trip to the USCAA National tourney.

It was going to be a challenge for French to duplicate those accomplishments, but after what she learned a year ago, another tremendous season was certainly possible.

“I had another year under my belt,” French said. “I know what to expect. I know the ropes. I know when to do what and how to do what.”

The Mustangs averaged 80 points per game last year but only returned 22, much of that returning scoring came from French. That set the bar high or her second year, but French wasn’t concerned.

“Maybe coming I did think about it,” said French, who averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last year, earning all-conference and All-American status. “Once we all started playing and we noticed how well we all played together, it really made it easier.”

Still, there’s been no let down in French’s game. She was the YSCC Player of the Year once again and was the conference tourney’s MVP. She also repeated on the first team as a USCAA Division II All-American.She averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 steals. She ranks second in the nation in steals and third in shooting percentage, at 56 percent.

“She’s really taken her game to a new level this year,” CMCC coach Andrew Morong said. “She was always our best defensive player and our best offensive player. Now she’s doing some of the little things, taking offensive fouls and diving on the floor for loose balls. There was nothing anybody could do to stop us from winning the Yankee Conference. She was absolutely everywhere. She was completely relentless. She’s the most competitive person I’ve ever met.”

French hasn’t just been the team’s go-to player. She’s been able to blend her game in the flow of everyone else’s game. She not only works well with the players around her but they thrive off her as well.

“We lost quite a bit from last year,” Morong said. “It’s pretty significant what we lost. Susie completely stepped her game up and kind of got everyone acclimated to where they needed t be, all by leading by example.”

When French left Portsmouth High school, the Greenland, N.H. native decided to go to the University of Maine in Orono. She left her basketball career behind. Though she often played pickup games with her brother in Orono, it didn’t take long for her to miss the game.

“My senior year I really didn’t know what to do,” French said. “I didn’t really want to play anymore. After taking a year off, I had a new appreciation for the game, and I was ready to get back into it.”

She got acclimated to her new surroundings at CMCC quickly and had a stellar season, despite having not played competitively for 18 months.

With that year to build on, she was determined to use that experience to her benefit.

“She added some weapons to her arsenal,” Morong said. “Defensively, last year, it was just steals. Now its getting stops, blocking shots and taking offensive fouls. The little things that usually don’t show up in the box score. She’s really been doing them all. It’s not that she didn’t do them. She’s more consistent doing them this year.”

It’s all been part of French’s mission this year. She realized what it takes to succeed and she’s bringing that to her game. After losing early in the nationals last year French says the team has something to prove.

“Last year was definitely disappointing for us,” French said. “Going in as the No. 1 seed and losing in the first round, now we just need to focus. We have to go in with the mindset that we can win. If we play with the same energy that we have, we know it’s going to be better than last year. We just have to be ready for it.”

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