She’d watched other players lead her Oxford Hills girls’ basketball team and become dominant players. The Vikings senior knew this year would be hers. But that still didn’t mean it would be easy.

“I had very high expectations because Anna (Winslow) and Mikayla (Morin), they were basically our scorers,” Sugars said. “I felt the need to pick up for both of them, and the rebounding and everything, and put the team on my back.”

Sugars hadn’t had to carry that load in previous seasons. She was a complimentary piece with great potential. This season would be different. She was one of the few returning players that had played regular starting minutes last year. The Vikings were significantly younger with many players stepping into larger roles, including Sugars herself.

“It was pressure, but I kind of liked it at the same time, because it was my time to shine,” Sugars said. “I had been behind them since freshmen year. I had always had great players ahead of me, and was totally fine with that. Now it was my time to be that great player.”

As the Vikings have risen up the Class AA North standings, Sugars game has evolved into the player the Vikings needed her to be. Not only has she been the calming influence she has been in the post, she’s played a game that excels in many areas.

“She’s a huge piece for us,” said Pelletier, whose team is ranked second in Class AA North. “At times it’s bigger than we even saw. She plays a lot of minutes for us. She’s constantly being critiqued on her play because we’re trying to make her better. It’s tough your senior year going from that calming influence to being the dominant scorer. Before, she had all those players around her. So if she had eight or 10 points, that was good. Now we’re looking for a little more from her.”

It’s been a constant evolution this season, but Sugars has displayed times of dominance in a variety of aspects of the game. She can score inside and be a force on the boards. She’s a dominant defender while also a leader for the Vikings. She runs the floor well. She’s a smart passer and one of the team’s top free throw shooters. She’s a playmaker from the post position and can handle the ball well away from the basket.

“It has definitely been a growing experience for her this year,” Pelletier said. “She has that dominant demeanor out there. Defensively, she loves playing it. Offensively, it’s getting her to want to turn the corner. We’ve seen this year so far that she has those moments where she’s the most dominant player on the floor.”

It took some adjusting for Sugars, but she’s learned her new role and started thriving in it. A significant piece of that is her confidence. She feels comfortable in her role now and feels empowered in it as well.

“I’m starting to get better at it, not only defensively and offensively but everything,” she said. “My confidence has gone up. It makes a big difference. It makes it easier for myself. I have lots of confidence. I can score. I believe in myself and my teammates will believe in me. We all feed off of that.”

As Sugars has evolved, so has the play of the team around her. Sugars was the most experienced player back for the Vikings, but Oxford Hills had a number of players that saw minutes last year that were stepping into larger roles. It took some time for those players to develop into the team the Vikings see now, but it is happening.

The Vikings have won six straight and are 11-3. The only other returning seniors are Jayden Colby and Allyssa Hanley. Returning juniors include Erin Morton, Erin Eastman and Anna Piirainen. Morton has become a complimentary outside piece and regular scorer for the Vikings. Eastman, Hanley, Colby and Piirainen are seasoned players that have elevated their game as well, and helped the Vikings build another contender.

“It helped a lot because sometimes the pressure comes off me,” Sugars said. “We even it out. It makes it easier for the whole team… so if I get in foul trouble, there’s other people that will score.”

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