Brooke Reynolds of Central Maine Community College. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover)

 

AUBURN — When Brooke Reynolds was at St. Joseph’s College her freshman year, she wasn’t aware that Central Maine Community College had a women’s basketball team.

The Mustangs’ head coach, Andrew Morong, was coaching Brooke’s younger sister Jordyn on an AAU team at the time and knew of Brooke, but not personally. During a dinner in the middle of a road trip, Brooke and Morong were seated across the table and the recruiting began.

“She came to an AAU tournament in Massachusetts, and we’re sitting across the dinner table from each other at a big team dinner,” Morong said. “And I know I said, ‘You know, you should consider coming to CM, you’d be a great fit on our basketball team.’ And she kind of, at that point, didn’t really know what to think. I think she was still trying to figure me out and figure out what she wanted to do, just in general. But yeah, it’s kind of all started at a random restaurant in some random city in Massachusetts.”

Neither Reynolds, nor Morong, could have anticipated the next three seasons, however.

The Mustangs won the USCAA Division II national championship in 2017, Reynolds’ first season. CM then finished runner-up last year and is attempting to win again this year.

“I never thought to ever come here, so I never paid any attention,” Reynolds said. “If you would have told me that we would have won the national tournament at the beginning of the season, I would have said you were lying, because I had no idea.”

Reynolds sure understands CM’s place in Maine basketball. She has helped create it.

The senior is the sixth player in Mustangs history to score more than 1,000 points and also ranks first in career steals. This season, Reynolds is averaging 13.6 points per game in just-under 25 minutes per game while shooting 66 percent from the floor. She also averages 9.2 rebounds a game and 4.5 steals.

Safe to say Reynolds has carved her place out in Mustangs history. After winning so much over her first two seasons, Reynolds has realized that every moment counts.

“I think from that you just learn to appreciate everything and that it’s not going to be handed to us,” Reynolds said. “We have to appreciate everything that happened from the first year. They weren’t just going to hand us the award. So we still have to work just as hard, twice as hard, because now everyone wants to beat us.”

Eraleena Gethers-Hairston, a junior and the other three-year player on the team, played with Reynolds at Auburn Middle School and Edward Little High School. Jordyn Reynolds, Brooke’s younger sister, joined the team last year and has been an important piece to the puzzle since day one. The three of them have built on their already-strong bond and are not ready to stop playing together quite yet.

“I think the thing that has motivated me the most this year is that this is my final year being able to play college basketball and my final year here at CM, and I’m not ready to hand in my jersey yet,” Brooke Reynolds said. “That goes for me and speaking for ‘E’ because I know that she’s not ready. I know that neither of us are ready to hand in our jersey until hopefully we win the national championship. That would be the right time that I’ll finally be happy to hand it in.”

All three are forwards and all play at least 13 minutes per game, but Gethers-Hairston’s role has shrunk over the last two years. Still, the trio work off each other on the court and are like family off it.

“The three of us have a special bond that a lot of people don’t have,” Reynolds said. “I told ‘E’ before the SMCC game that I was playing for her because I don’t want this season to end just like she doesn’t want this season to end. So for me, for the rest of my season, I’m playing and giving everything I have for her.”

Reynolds’ relationship with Morong is also strong. During the national tournament in Reynolds’ first season, she had to take a test online to try to get into the nursing program. Morong helped her study and stayed up with her until midnight while she finished the exam. And while Reynolds received entry into the nursing program, she switched majors and will be graduating in the spring with associate’s degrees in general studies and medical assistant.

“I’m not sure that I’ve ever had this strong of a relationship with a player ever before,” Morong said. “First of all, we don’t get many three-year players, obviously. So we’ve had a lot of time together. And she’s one of the few players, there’s been a few, but not many, that know what I’m thinking and when I’m thinking it. And sometimes before I can even acknowledge that I’m thinking it.

“It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and we’ve definitely had bumps in the road. We’re both very stubborn people, but it’s rare that you get to have this kind of relationship with one of your players. So, it’s just, it’s exciting.”

Heading into the tournament, Reynolds and the team are ready to just play. The experience of making the tournament the past two seasons has helped the players treat the tournament as more of a business trip rather than a party.

“We’re down there and we’re down there to win,” Morong said. “We just have been down there so many times now that it’s just kind of like, you know, it’s just second nature to us, you know what to do and when to do it.”

Morong doesn’t have his players watch too much film because he doesn’t want them to be too overwhelmed with more stuff than they already have to deal with. The team is focusing more on themselves and little adjustments to the offense and defense.

The national title is the goal, and Reynolds knows what it will take to hand in the jersey for the final time the right way.

“I think it’s going to be better competition,” Reynolds said. “If I was going to say I wasn’t going to be nervous, I’d be lying. I mean, I think I get nervous before every game regardless of who we play. But I think that if we just do what we’ve been taught and do what we’re supposed to do, then everything will be fine. The best team will win.”


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