LEWISTON — For Lisa Ciesluk, the dream of playing competitive basketball again was worth the two-hour drive from Deerfield, New Hampshire, to see if she still had the right stuff to join the LA Maples.

The 43-year-old Ciesluk was one of eight hopefuls, including Grace Fontaine of Auburn and Jessica Conant of Canton, who tried out for the Maples — a new women’s semipro basketball team — at Lewiston Memorial Armory on Saturday afternoon. It was the team’s second tryout.

“I just love basketball,” Ciesluk said. “I saw it as an opportunity to play, for somebody like me who wasn’t able to take advantage of that at a younger age. (I am) just doing it for the love of the game, and the opportunity is there.

“Life is too short. Why not? The flyer said LA Maples so I automatically thought of Los Angeles. Then when I saw that it was in Maine, and it is a newer team, and the more I began reading, I read about the league, a lot of teams have been growing and adding on, so I said, ‘Hey, it is not too far.’”

Making the team is important to her for several reasons.

“It is very important because if I am coming here, I going to come and achieve a goal,” she said.

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The Pennsylvania native, who played high school and college basketball at Moravian College and Centenary College, was accompanied to Saturday’s tryout by her biggest fan, her husband.

“I love it,” James Ciesluk said. “We love sports. We are a sports family. This is something she is passionate about, so I say, ‘Go after it.’ It is something for my kids, too. I think it sends a good message for them. It doesn’t matter about the age. You’re passionate, love something, (then) give it a shot. She’s been putting the work in, the time, so I said, ‘You know what, see what happens.’”

Fontaine, who helped Edward Little win the Class AA girls basketball state championship in 2018, is studying business at Southern Maine Community College and played a year for the school. She said the tryout gives her one more opportunity to play hoop.

“I just miss it and it is so much fun,” she said. “I just want to get back into it, and, yeah, that’s why I am here today. I just want to see what it is like, honestly.”

Conant played for Dirigo High School and Plymouth State College. She called basketball of the love of her life.

“I tried out just for fun, but once I got on the court, I just fell in love with it all over again,” Conant, an auditor, said. “It is just something I want to have fun but also bring all my competitiveness back into me.

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“I love that (the Maples) are bringing back basketball in this community. It is a strong community that loves basketball, especially Maine basketball.”

Maples general manager Sarah Soltan was pleased with the turnout as the team moves forward to prepare for the July 10 season opener. She added that holding a second tryout — the first was April 10 — was to make sure everybody had an opportunity to participate.

“We had a great turnout so far today,” she said. “We have more girls this time than last time. We have some exciting players being involved. The response has been great. People are excited to have women’s basketball in Lewiston.” 

President of basketball operations Jim Seavey said three professional players, who are competing in Europe, expressed interest in the Maples.

Former York High School standout Shannon Todd, who went on to play for Northeastern University, is in France. The second player is Katelyn Matthew, who played year Thornton Academy before moving on to play for Worcester Academy and eventually William and Mary and is now playing professionally in Macedonia. Lydia Rivers, who played for Virginia Tech, turned pro and is playing in Germany, is the third.

“Kaitlyn is definitely going to play, and the other two are waiting to see how things play out and whether they are going to return to Europe or not,” Seavey said.

He added that he would have liked to see more players to try out, “but I like the quality that we have. We’ve got some good young ladies who know how to play the game.”

And all eight of them want another shot to play the game, especially at this level.

“I would love to make the team,” Allie Goodman, of Freeport, said. “I am very competitive and I would love to make this team.”

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