Gray-New Gloucester coach Ryan Deschenes is spending more time studying the Heal points this season than he has in any other, with the Patriots’ move to Class A.

Besides finding out where his Patriots stack up in Class A South (2-3 and in ninth place as of Sunday), Deschenes still has to keep a close eye on their former region, B South, since that is where many of their opponents still reside.

One thing Deschenes has learned from keeping closer tabs on A South is that there is a lot of competition for one of the top seven spots and a bye to the quarterfinals.

“Class A is top-heavy,” he said, “so we’ll see where we stand in February.”

With just three seniors and one junior, this may be the youngest team Deschenes has ever coached. Preseason injuries to senior Matt Johnson (broken finger) and junior Wyatt Kenney (foot) pressed seven sophomores and two freshmen into larger roles.

Kenney made his season debut in Friday’s 68-56 win over rival Poland and scored 12 points. Deschenes said Johnson should be back some time around the New Year to give the Patriots a boost

“Matt’s long and he gives us another experienced and versatile offensive player, so we’ve missed him,” Deschenes said.

Nicholas Kariotis of Gray-New Gloucester grabs a long pass while being guarded by Isaiah Hill of Poland Regional High School on Friday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Patriots spread the scoring around against Poland, getting double figures in the scoring column from three other players besides Kenney: Nick Kariotis (15), Nick Pelletier (12) and Poland transfer Jay Hawkes (10).

Deschenes hopes for more of the same when the Patriots return from the holiday break, with fourth straight tough road games at Yarmouth, Lake Region, Greely and Freeport.

“That’s going to be a theme this year,” Deschenes said. “We’ve got guys who can get the ball in the hoop, and once we’re fully healthy with Johnson, we feel we’ll be a versatile offensive team, and we’ll be tough to guard as we’re running our stuff and getting downhill and sharing the ball.”

KNIGHT AND DAY

With six returning contributors from last year and a large, maturing junior nucleus, Poland was hoping to show it had climbed a few rungs up from last year’s 5-13 season. Instead, the Knights are off to an 0-5 start, made all the more frustrating by flashes of the kind of winning team head coach Tyler Tracy thinks they can be.

“We have moments where we look really good and everything’s flowing and everything’s clicking,” Tracy said. “We just haven’t done that consistently.”

The Knights led both Freeport and Morse by 10 points in the first half of what turned out as eight- and 13-point losses. They fell to a strong Maranacook team by 11 and kept Gray-New Gloucester within its sights for virtually all of the 68-56 loss.

The Knights’ best stretches have come when they’ve had good ball movement and played with confidence at the offensive end, Tracy said.

“Then we just have lapses where we go away from it or whatever was clicking is missing,” Tracy said. “There’s a chance we can be playing really well at any point. I just hope it’s quick enough so we can reel off some wins.”

TAKE IT EASY

Gray-New Gloucester girls coach Mike Andreasen succinctly stated that his team’s first half Friday night against St. Dominic Academy was “awful.” 

The Patriots trailed 23-15, and at one point “it got worse and worse and worse,” according to Andreasen. 

“Luckily at halftime, and I give credit to my assistant, (son) Matt. Matt says ‘You know what, right now they don’t need to be brow-beaten.’ He said ‘Let’s go soft on them,’” Andreasen said. “And we did, we went in and just kind of made whatever possible adjustments we thought we could make. And we were pretty calm and collected. Said ‘one possession at a time.'” 

Possession by possession the Patriots picked apart the Saints’ 2-3 zone defense and finally took the lead late in the third quarter of the 48-37 win. 

SAINTS’ FAB FIVE

With a long 2-pointer from Hannah Kenney late in the first quarter of Friday’s game at Gray-New Gloucester, St. Dominic Academy put all five starters into the scorebook. It was a coach’s dream, seeing his or team spread the ball around successfully. 

And for the Saints, it was successful in that opening quarter, in which they scored 17 points and led the defending Class B state champion Patriots 17-9. 

In fact, the Class C contending Saints (Gray-New Gloucester moved up to Class this season) got all of their scoring from their five starters, while putting just six players on the court in the contest. 

Rebecca Zimmerman was the Saints’ leading scorer, pouring in 14. Mia-Angelina Leslie had eight, Kenney seven, Skye Rogers six and Jessica Zimmerman two. 

“It is a skilled group, and they all can shoot, pass and dribble,” Saints coach J.P. Yorkey said. “We do move the ball, so that should happen naturally.” 

THE RIGHT STUFF

Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam is still trying find the right combination of players to make his Vikings more competitive this season. After Lewiston rolled to 70-46 victory over the Vikings, Graffam had a better understanding of his athletes’ performance.

“Most of the guys right now are scoring for the first time in their varsity careers,” he explained. “I have three kids back from last year. None of them scored very much. So we are trying to figure out which ones are actually varsity players stepping up from the JVs. Tonight gave a clearer idea who those seven, eight, nine guys (are), who we are going to have to rely on to get through the rest of the season.”

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey promises to be more patient when teams make a run at his Phoenix.

“I got to understand that is going to happen,” Bessey said after Wednesday’s win against Oak Hill. “When you are not as deep as we are — we play five, six, seven guys — a lot of those kids are playing every minute of the game because of circumstances that have come up. So there is going to be moments where teams are going to make a run at us. I thought we did a good job of responding.”

GREYHOUNDS READY FOR GRIND

Lisbon is one of three local teams that will be participating in the three-day Red Claws Christmas Showcase, bringing teams from around Maine, as well as Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, to the Portland Expo for boys and girls basketball action.

The Greyhounds are scheduled to face Class A Westbrook at 5:30 p.m. on the first day, Dec. 26. The game is an exhibition and will not have any Heal-point value.

“We always want to try to play teams that are more skilled and better than us,” Lisbon coach Jake Gentle said. “It helps us sharpen our skills and it gives us an idea of what we can and can not do on a basketball court.”

Lisbon won back-to-back games over Dirigo and Wiscasset to go into the holiday break over .500 (3-2). The Greyhounds have a 10-day break from Heal point-worthy competition prior to hosting Telstar on Dec. 30.

The Greyhounds also beat Oak Hill 57-46 to start the season before suffering back-to-back losses to two of the top three teams in the Class C South Heals: Boothbay (60-56) and Mt. Abram (60-45).

“We were really happy getting the win at Oak Hill, and I thought we played tremendously well at Boothbay and just came up a little short,” Gentle said. “We would have liked to come out with a win up at Mt. Abram, but it just didn’t happen. We didn’t shoot well and Mt. Abram played really well offensively. To bounce back (against Dirigo) with a win was really important. Ideally, you always want to try to be going into the winter break above .500 because January is such a grind with all of the games you play. I feel we’re playing pretty good basketball right now, but there’s always from for improvement.”

The Greyhounds’ depth could be key to getting further north of .500 over the January grind, Gentle said.

“I’m pretty confident in playing nine, 10 guys for the most part,” Gentle said. “Everybody contributes when we’re all in the game and we’re focused. We’ve got guys that can put the ball in the basketball hoop. That makes our practices really competitive because I feel we are pretty deep.”


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