JAY — For Spruce Mountain girls basketball players Victoria Ouellette and Emily Keene, basketball season didn’t end with the completion of regular season and tournament play.

Ouellette was selected to play in the Class A-B Senior All-Star game during McDonald’s All-Star weekend at Husson University in Bangor on March 8, while Keene took part in the Maine State Foul Shooting Championship and won for the second straight year. Last week, the two met with this reporter and offered their perspectives on participating in the events.

Players are selected to participate in the Senior All-Star game by being nominated by their coaches and then voted upon by the coaches in each region. The A-B All-Stars play on one team, and C-D All-Stars play on another. There is an East team and a West team for the two All-Star games.

“I hadn’t even thought about it at all,” said Ouellette. “Coach (Gavin Kane) told me at practice, and I was surprised. I was really excited.”

She had the once in a lifetime opportunity to play with and against Maine’s best Class A and B players. The players on the West squad included 2014 Miss Maine Basketball winner Allie Clement of McAuley and Miss Maine basketball finalist Tiana-Jo Carter of Lake Region.

“It was so much fun to play with them. It wasn’t stressful at all,” said Ouellette.

The game provided a satisfying ending to her high school basketball career, which has seen Ouellette battle back from a serious knee injury suffered during her junior year. She vividly recalled that fateful night in January, 2013, when she suffered a full tear of her ACL and a partial meniscus tear during a game against Mountain Valley. It put a stop to her season, and Ouellette would have surgery to repair the damage.

Despite the misfortune she suffered, Ouellette refused to feel sorry for herself. She came to the her team’s games and practices even though she couldn’t play, and cheered them on. Furthermore, Ouellette was determined to come back and play.

“I knew that I was going to be back for the next season,” she said. “I was hoping to play this summer, but it didn’t work out.”

Incredibly, Ouellette was back for the field hockey season, and helped the Phoenix advance to the Western Class B final. As the basketball season went along, the condition of her knee improved. Ouellette pointed to a new physical therapy program as being key in helping her progress.

“I gained a lot of strength,” she said.

She credited her Spruce Mountain coaches, Kane, Rebecca Fletcher, Matt Clark, and Greg Gagne, for helping her become a better basketball player. Her teammates also provided support when needed.

“I wouldn’t be here without everyone’s support,” she emphasized.

Ouellette, who will graduate from Spruce Mountain High School in June, has been accepted to UNH, the University of New England, and Quinnipiac College. She will be majoring in occupational therapy.

“I’d love to work in a school system,” she said.

Keene, a junior, has always been a perfectionist when it comes to free throw shooting.

“Ever since I was little, every basketball practice, I’ve shot free throws,” she said.

Her middle school and AAU coaches helped her develop a routine that she uses to this day.

Last year, she won the state free throw shooting contest by making 49 of 50 shots. This year, she made 44 of 50 to come out on top.

“I was happy. It was cool to win it a second year in a row,” she said.

Keene qualified for the state event by winning a Central Region competition at Madison. Four different regions were represented at states.

At the state competition, Keene watched a player who went before her make 43 free throws to set a target. She then coolly went out and did exactly what she needed to do to win.

“I just mostly focus on making it,” she offered when asked what went through her mind while shooting foul shots. “That’s all I really think about. Something big for me is not falling off the line. Coach Kane told me to hold my follow-through and stay on the line.”

Ouellette is impressed with her teammate’s attention to detail at the foul line.

“She has very good focus, and she practices a lot,” she said.

“You have to practice a certain routine,” Keene pointed out. “When my back was out at the beginning of the season, I’d miss a lot.

“Confidence is a big key for me. You have to believe you can make it.”

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