Men’s and women’s college basketball teams in central Maine are finally getting their first taste of action after the coronavirus pandemic altered the 2020 campaign.

Expectations are high again for several teams across central Maine, with the University of Maine at Farmington, University of Maine at Augusta, Colby and Thomas programs seeking steady improvement.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

Two years ago, Colby went 24-4 and reached the Division III tournament. Half of the Mules’ roster was comprised of juniors and seniors.

This season, Colby (3-1 entering Tuesday) returns a mix of upperclassmen to underclassmen, but with a different makeup. The Mules have just one senior — guard Matt Hanna — along with eight juniors. Colby has a group of 10 freshmen and sophomores who hadn’t played a minute of college basketball until the season opener, a 94-83 victory over New England College on Nov. 12 in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“It’s still a young group,” Colby head coach Damien Strahorn said. “The reality of last year and not having game. Even our junior class at this point probably has about 40 or so games under their belt. The sophomore class with about 25 games under their belt. The process to get good is something that takes time, and you sort of have to live and grow through those experiences, I think for everyone. That’s all happening in a very different way than in years past. I love our group. I love how we can play. Now it’s about how we can piece it together for 40 minutes on both ends of the court.”

Colby already has three players averaging more than 10 points per game in its first four games, including returning junior guards Noah Tyson (15.8 ppg) and Alec McGovern (11.8) and freshman guard/forward Jack Lawson (13.3).

No central Maine team may carry a younger roster than the Thomas College men. This season, the Terriers (2-2 heading into Tuesday) feature nine freshmen and three sophomores. Thomas has just one senior, albeit an important one, in guard Demetris Webster. A fearless slasher, the 5-foot-7 Webster averaged 11.5 points per game for the Terriers during the 2019-2020 season.

Thomas might already be taking to Webster’s energy. In a game against Colby last week, Thomas jumped out to a 39-35 halftime lead before the Mules came back in the second half and pulled out an 81-63 win. However, at no point in the contest did the Terriers show any sign of being intimidated by their cross-town opponent.

Thomas head coach Deshon Gaither has familiarity with many of his newer players, thanks to his time as a coach and club advisor for Black Bear AAU.

University of Maine at Augusta senior guard Eric Crawford brings the ball up the court during a Nov. 10 game against Central Maine Community College at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I’ve known these kids,” Gaither said. “But they all come from winning programs. They know how to win. If we can get that culture in here, it will start to help itself. All these kids that I have in here as freshmen-wise, I got one from California, I have one from Virginia, one from Jackman (Maine)… I recruited those kids because they want to change the culture here.”

The most veteran group may be the University of Maine at Farmington. The Beavers (2-1 before Tuesday’s action) have five seniors, including guard Terion Moss and center Jack Kane.

Moss, a Portland High School graduate, dropped 48 points in a 91-73 win over the University of Southern Maine on Oct. 20. The effort broke the single game program record of 44 points, set by Daren Meader in 2000. Moss is averaging 28.3 points per game. Kane is averaging 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

University of Maine at Augusta junior guard Elijah Smith, left, shoots over CMCC’s Josh Cherry during a Nov. 10 game at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“They are outstanding talents,” said UMF head coach Sam Leal, who will get to coach his first full season for the Beavers after being hired before the pandemic last year. “They work very hard at being good, too. They put in the extra work daily, so they are at their best for practices and game days. We’re very lucky. They’re both so talented. They make everyone else around them better, too.”

The team with the least amount of game rust to shake off is the University of Maine at Augusta. The Moose (2-5 leading into the week) managed to get six games in last season. First-year head coach Paul Piscopo has seven upperclassmen, led by junior guard Elijah Smith and senior guard Eric Crawford, the son of NBA veteran Jamal Crawford. A welcome addition to the UMA roster is freshman guard Trevor Beals, a Massabesic High School graduate, who is already averaging 9.1 points per game and leads the Moose with 6.4 rebounds per game.

 

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

 

Much like the men’s teams, the central Maine women’s teams are also shaking off rust.

Only two years removed from an 11-15 season and a trip to the North Atlantic Conference quarterfinals for the first time in program history, Thomas has a small and young roster. Seven of its 10 players are underclassmen.

The lone senior for the Terriers (0-4 as of Monday) is guard Kaylee Ravagli, who leads the team in scoring (13.5 ppg). Sophomore forward and Edward Little High School graduate Chantel Ouellette is second on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg).

Colby has already jumped out to a 5-0 record under head coach Chenel Harris-Smith. The Mules return three seniors, though it’s two sophomores — guard/forward Caroline Smith (11.6 ppg) and guard/forward Carter McGloon (10.6 ppg) — who lead the team in scoring. Senior guard Keagan Dunbar (10.4 ppg) rounds out the group.

University of Maine at Farmington women’s basketball coach Nate Carson, background, signals to his team as Bates’ Morgan Kennedy, right, looks to make a pass around UMF defender Makayla Wilson during a Nov. 16 game in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

UMF (4-1 leading into Tuesday) returns two of its top scorers — seniors Alex Bessey and McKenna Brodeur. Bessey, a guard, leads the team with 16 points per game, and hit the 1,000-point mark in her career (between her time at UMF and at Central Maine Community College) in a loss to Bates College on Nov. 16. Brodeur, a forward and Messalonskee High School graduate, averages 11.2 points per game. They’re both joined by senior guard and Monmouth Academy graduate Tia Day, who is also averaging 11.2 points per game.

UMA (3-1 heading into Tuesday’s action) has a new coach in Heath Cowan, who has coached a variety of high school boys and girls programs throughout the years. Senior forward Madeline Suhr returns this season for the Moose, and already leads the team in points (19 per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game). Junior Hope Butler is averaging 10.5 points per game, while junior forward and Monmouth graduate Kaeti Butterfield is averaging 9.7 points and seven rebound per game for UMA.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer


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