WINTHROP — The Winthrop girls basketball team spent Wednesday night’s practice preparing for their game against Hall-Dale.

The Ramblers would have rather been playing Carrabec, but that game was postponed for the second day in a row. So, instead, they got ready for Thursday night’s game, with their eyes set on winning, which they did, 45-38.

The preparation itself is a victory for the Winthrop program.

“We’ve never been able to sit down and say, ‘We need to prep for a team,’” senior Addy Chaparin said. “This year, we’re able to do that, which is nice.”

The Ramblers are now 3-3, and entered Thursday ranked seventh in the Class C South Heal points standings. Considering where the program has been during the tenure of the four seniors — Chaparin, Bri McClure, Matti Rice and Shie Smith — Winthrop is one of the early success stories of the 2016-17 season.

“This is sort of the first year that I’ve told them that we have enough basketball knowledge and enough skills to create a game plan, prepare a game plan and go out and execute a game plan,” Winthrop coach Joe Burnham said. “Whereas, in years past, we needed to focus on what we needed to do to have any sort of success.


“We’ve moved into that varsity mentality, preparing for other teams.”

The four seniors have been key players as Winthrop has started over essentially from scratch in order to be competitive on a nightly basis.

The process hasn’t been easy. But they’ve stuck to it, and invested themselves to building the program.

“Those girls were willing to work just as hard as I was to get us to where we are,” Burnham said.

It all started in 2013-14, the group’s freshman season, with an 0-18 record. That was the first season under Burnham. He said the Ramblers allowed an average of 64 points while scoring only 16 points per game.

The process of rebuilding Winthrop into a winner needed a better starting point, so Burnham made the decision to drop the program to JV in 2014-15.


It made sense — the team was essentially just freshmen and sophomores, anyway — but it was a difficult decision.

A few players left the team. Smith, Rice, McClure and Chaparin stuck around, but it was still tough to swallow. Looking back at it now, two years later, they recognize its benefits.

“I think it was hard for us to understand at first,” Rice said. “We were kind of upset, obviously, because we thought we disappointed people, and we were kind of down.

“But I think it was the best decision. I think our coach made a great decision doing it, because we just didn’t have the experience, and I think he knew our confidence level at the time wouldn’t have been any better. It was really hard at first, but I think it really benefited us.”

The idea was to create a situation more conducive to growth and improvement. They even had some success.

“I can still remember the first game that we played, when they actually won, they celebrated like they’d never won before,” Burnham said. “And then it turned out that none of them had won a basketball game before. The only thing that they knew about basketball was showing up, getting beat by 25 to 40, and then going to McDonald’s afterward.”


Winthrop moved back up to varsity last season, when the Class of 2017 was juniors. All the growth and confidence gained from the JV season crashed head-on into reality.

“It was a harsh reality of how much the speed of the game picks up, going from JV to varsity,” Burnham said. “It took us half of the season to catch back up to where we were.”

The Ramblers finished 3-15 (their first win was Burnham’s first varsity win at Winthrop, coming, he said, 984 days after he was hired). They progressed throughout the season, and won three of their last eight games.

The growth carried over to the first game of this season. Winthrop trailed Oak Hill by eight to 10 points in the fourth quarter, but came back to win 55-53 in overtime.

“In previous games and seasons, we have had no execution under pressure,” Chaparin said. “Normally, if it’s close, we kind of fall apart, we make silly turnovers; but being able to execute and make good decisions in the time crunch was really awesome to see.”

Burnham points out that the next game, four days later, was a humbling 72-40 loss to Mountain Valley. That was followed by a 34-17 win over Dirigo. Then came a 30-point loss to Monmouth, a six-point setback to Mt. Abram and the win over Hall-Dale.


There have already been highs and lows, but it’s been an exciting start.

“We can compete this year,” McClure said.

The seniors are excited about the program’s progress, but also the future. Along with improving their own skills, Rice, Smith, McClure and Chaparin have helped elevate those of younger players who might one day play for Winthrop.

They’ve helped Burnham run Saturday clinics for girls as young as kindergarten. Many of this year’s underclassmen know the upperclassmen from those clinics.

Rather than walk away, or settle for self-pity, the Winthrop upperclassmen have instead set the tone for this year’s team and created what Burnham thinks will be a sturdy foundation.

And they’re preparing to win.

“I never quite understood why the girls kept with it, if all they knew was getting blown out,” Burnham said. “I didn’t understand how that was fun. But, you know, they’re a bunch of strong-willed kids. And now they get to see some of those benefits of their hard work.”

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