Emily Strachan, left, a freshman on the Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team, is following in the footsteps of her mother, Jamie, right, who was a member of the first CMCC women’s basketball team in 1998-99. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Emily Strachan is following footsteps that helped blaze the trail at Central Maine Community College.

Her mother, Jamie, was a member of CMCC’s first women’s basketball team in 1998-99.

Now, Emily, a 2021 Lewiston High School graduate, is a freshman on this year’s Mustangs squad.

“She said she loved it, she really enjoyed the program, and we have been watching through the years,” Emily said. “We have come back (to watch) throughout the years, and she’s really excited I am in this program doing what she did.”

The CMCC women’s basketball program has come a long way since 1998-99, when Jamie was one of just five players on the roster. Whenever players fouled out during that first season, the Mustangs had to finish games with only four players.

Meanwhile, Emily is one of 16 players on this year’s team.

One thing that has remained is the program’s winning culture.

“We were a powerhouse then,” Jamie said. “Actually, I can count on one hand how many times we lost (that first year). I actually played there for three years.”

The Mustangs went 11-3 in 1998-99 and were Yankee Small College Conference champions. They also won the YSCC title in 2001, which was Jamie’s final season.

Heading into the 2021-22 season, CMCC is the powerhouse of the YSCC and boasts two recent USCAA national championships (2017 and 2019).

Besides the number of players on the team, the program and school also have evolved.

“The floor was different, we had that (rubber) floor that gave me shin splints,” Jamie said. “We didn’t have a nice floor, we didn’t have the bleachers. I think pretty much all they did was set up a small (scoring) table, and people sat there to do the (stats). There was no (giant scoreboard), and there were no live streaming games.”

That first team had fan support similar to what the Mustangs have now. Jamie said the students used packed the gym at CMCC.

Current CMCC women’s coach Andrew Morong said the program has a strong bond with players from its past. At the beginning of every season, the Mustangs play a game against an alumni team. Jamie couldn’t play against Emily in this year’s game due to a scheduling conflict.

Morong also said that the program is where it is today because of the sacrifices of the alumni.

“We don’t refer to us as Central Maine Community College, we don’t refer ourselves as the Mustangs, we refer to ourselves as the CM family,” Morong said. “This (Emily following Jamie) is a case in point this is it.”

SWITCHING TO HOOPS

Emily didn’t start out playing basketball. She started cheerleading at 3 years old until she was in sixth grade.

“I kinda got into (basketball) when I was in the sixth grade,” Emily said. “My mom wanted me to play, and my friends were playing. So, I actually met the (Nicolas) twins Myah and Jamyah, who are on this team. I saw them on playing, and I tried it out.”

Myah and Jamyah Nicolas also graduated from Lewiston earlier this year and are freshmen on the 2021-22 CMCC squad.

Jamie said cheerleading benefitted Emily when she started playing basketball.

“Honestly, I think it was the best thing that could of happened to her because cheerleading is definitely one of the hardest sports to do,” Jamie said. “Her core strength and flexibility is absolutely amazing because of cheerleading.”

Basketball was always around Emily when she was younger.

“My husband and I, we always wanted her to play basketball; she didn’t want to, she went the cheering route,” Jamie said. “Always in the back of my mind, I was always trying to get (Emily) to go to basketball without putting any pressure. We did a lot of basketball at the house, in the yard, we watched games on TV, and I would bring her to games.”

Then, one day, Jamie said, Emily was all in on basketball.

Emily said it took some time to pick up the basics of the game.

“I traveled every time I touched it, I had a bad shot, but I stuck with it,” Emily said. “I stayed with it, I had a lot of role models like (former Lewiston and CMCC player and now CMCC women’s assistant coach) Kristina Blais, my mom, definitely, so I had a lot of people to look up to. I was able to follow in their footsteps.”

GOING TO CMCC

CMCC isn’t the first time Morong has coached Emily Strachan. She has also played for the Maine Basketball Club AAU high school team, which Morong coaches.

“When I played for his AAU team, I got to know his coaching style,” Emily said. “Coming here, it wasn’t a huge change because I already played for him. That really helped with learning how he (coaches).”

Early in Emily’s high school career at Lewiston High School, Morang had a feeling he would be coaching her at the college level.

“I saw Emily play, I am going to as a freshman at Lewiston, I actually saw her and her current teammates Myah and Jamyah Nicolas, who were also freshmen and playing varsity back then,” Morong said. “The first day, I saw them play, and I looked at my assistant coach, who I was at the game with, and I said: ‘All three of these girls are coming to CM. I am going to find a way. They are going to be a part of our backcourt.'”

Emily didn’t always have her sights set on playing for CMCC, but Jamie said it is the perfect place for her daughter right now.

“When Emily was in high school, she would always talk about (when) she graduates, she’s getting out of here, she’s going big, she’s going to play D-I, and she’s getting out of the state of Maine,” Jamie said. “As graduation gets closer, COVID happens, and her maturing, she said, ‘Maybe it’s not smart to go away right now.’ She always loved the CMCC basketball team.”


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