Brandon Frey of Spruce Mountain High School floats a shot past Manny Calder of Monmouth Academy in Jay on Tuesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Basketball coaches around the region, especially those from small schools and/or with a short bench, aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the winter-long battle with the flu.

“I told all of our guys, ‘Make sure you wash your hands, sanitize, wash up,'” Monmouth Academy boys coach Wade Morrill said. “This time of year is tough for small schools. Basketball is a game of five and you’ve got six or seven good players and three of them are sick, what do you do?”

Morrill’s comments came after his Mustangs (6-3) knocked off short-handed Spruce Mountain, 44-40, on Tuesday. The Phoenix, already playing without starter Lorne Grondin due to a broken pinky finger suffered last month, were without starting brothers Jack and Owen Bryant, who were sidelined by the flu. Senior starting point guard Cam Cain had also been battling the flu 24 hours earlier.

“For it to hit us (Monday and Tuesday), the timing couldn’t have been worse,” Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey said. “We have the next eight days off. Why couldn’t the flu have just waited just one more night?”

The Phoenix (8-2) suited up just eight players and only six saw the floor against Monmouth.

Behind senior guard Brandon Frey’s 28 points and tough halfcourt defense by their tireless skeleton crew, Spruce was able to battle the Mustangs to the wire, but were clearly fatigued in the late stages.

Bessey tried to conserve his players’ energy by slowing down the normally up-tempo Phoenix, but with the scoring options decimated, they needed Frey to take advantage of whatever opportunities arose.

“It’s tough for Brandon to slow down doing anything,” Bessey said. “I think he felt the pressure of having to do too much.”

Bessey said he expects the Phoenix to be back at full speed with all hands on deck when they return to game action with a big home game against Winthrop on Jan. 15.

PREPPING FOR HEIGHT

The Rangeley girls basketball team had a lot going for it against Pine Tree Academy on Thursday, but height wasn’t in the Lakers’ favor.

It was a moot point in a decisive win, but the shorter Lakers did have difficulty at times with inside shots and rebounding. Rangeley’s three tallest players (Winnie LaRochelle, Ellah Smith and Gabrielle White) all stand 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Pine Tree sent out 5-foot-10 Regence Sandy, 5-foot-9 Ishell Maitland and 5-foot-8 Eliana Tardiff — whose wingspan makes her seem even taller.

Good thing the Lakers (11-0) prepared for such a scenario.

“We’ve been practicing against some taller people in our community to take chances with taller people,” Rangeley coach Brittany DiPompo said. “We are not blessed with height at all, so we just try to use our speed, and that’s why offensively a lot of it comes from our defense, because of our speed. So we want to keep having the opportunities like PTA to have that height, and to take advantage of every game that someone has a taller person.”

Edward Little’s John Shea battles Lewiston’s Chiwer Mayen for post position earlier this month at Edward Little High School. RAM Sports photography

RAMS’ SHEA PROBLEM

Early in Edward Little’s key Class AA North boys basketball matchup against Deering on Saturday, it became obvious that Red Eddies sophomore center John Shea was going to be a factor.

The Rams tried their best to stop Shea, but the big man drew five fouls in the first quarter alone, which forced Deering coach Todd Wing to reset his frontcourt. Shea attempted eight free throws, making four, pulled down four rebounds and also blocked a shot in the first quarter.

“I mean, Shea’s a load. We tried to prepare for him,” Wing said. “And the good thing is, now in AA North we play each other twice (so we can look at the film and adjust to him).”

Shea did go quiet in the second quarter and didn’t score, and he added six points in the second half on two field goals and 2 of 3 free throws.

Edward Little (9-1) coach Mike Adams said he thought Shea hid at times offensively against Deering’s zone defense.

“He had a lot of pressure. He’s a sophomore, so he’s still learning how to post up and show for the ball,” Adams said.

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS

Edward Little girls coach Chris Cifelli knows his young basketball team is experiencing growing pains this season.

Cifelli was proud of the way the underclassmen stepped up against stubborn Leavitt (3-6), which also is in a rebuilding stage.

“I think it was how people stepped up and made some big plays — even if it was something in their minds small but overall could contribute to the larger picture,” Cifelli said. “I am really pleased with our underclassmen, that they are doing their best. 

“They are trying to be sponges. They trying to step into spots, and we are going to have mistakes, but we are hoping in the long term picture, we will get back to be where we are expected to be.”

The Red Eddies (3-8) entered last week without a victory, but won three straight, beating Bonny Eagle, Leavitt and Deering.

Randy Whitehouse, Wil Kramlich and Tony Blasi contributed to this report.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.