LEWISTON — Team captain Kayla Vangelist didn’t know what to expect when she joined the Lewiston-Auburn Maples, but point guard Allexia Barros is not surprised the team qualified for the Women’s American Basketball Association playoffs in the semipro women’s basketball team’s inaugural season.

The pair, along with the rest of their teammates, will be playing a familiar foe — the Mount Vernon Shamrocks from Yonkers, New York, in the WABA playoffs Sunday at the Lewiston Memorial Armory at 2 p.m.

Kayla Vangelist of the Lewiston-Auburn Maples drives to the basket game against the New England Trailblazers on July 10. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The LA Maples (4-1) are the 35th expansion team of the WABA and now find themselves in the midst of a postseason appearance.

The Shamrocks beat the Maples 84-82 in a heartbreaker on July 23 in New York, but Lewiston shook it off and returned the favor with a 74-71 win on July 31 in Lewiston.

“It has been a pretty even matchup all season,” Vangelist said. “(The Shamrocks) have some great athletes, but so do we — and I think we gained some experience that we didn’t have the last time we played them — and so I think it is really looking good for us.

“I think everybody is feeling good about the weekend in general. It looks like we are going to have our full roster. That is always the challenging thing … carrying a full roster and making sure everybody can be here.” 

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Vangelist said there are times when everybody can’t play because of family commitments.

Barros’ confidence is high, especially after watching the Maples grow and play as a team.

“It is good competition,” Barros said. “(The Shamrocks) keep you on your toes. I like playing them. I like competition, but we are coming for them, for sure.”

Lewiston-Auburn’s Allexia Barros makes a move during the Maples’ victory over the Mt. Vernon Shamrocks on July 31. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Barros is a WABA veteran who joined the team after the first game of the season, in which Lewiston-Auburn defeated her previous team, the New England Trailblazers before it disbanded. She is not surprised that the Maples are in the postseason in their first season.

“This team has a lot of talent. There is a lot weapons, and we are big,” she said. “We are building our chemistry every game. We don’t see each other a lot. Like I haven’t seen my team in two weeks, but when we step on the court, the bond is there. We just met this year. It sounds crazy, but it is true.

“We all want one thing — and this is a championship. That’s what we are going for. I love this team. It is great. Our communication defense is getting better.” 

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Maples owner Josh Brister said the run to playoffs is indeed a pleasant surprise.

“It does a world of good for us to be in the playoffs,” he said. “Our first season we didn’t project this. It is huge, man. We are anticipating a great crowd. Bates (College) is back in session, so we win this game, we are going to the final four.

“We have seen a lot fans and we have seen a lot of returning fans. That is the best thing.”

Brister said he wanted to thank the team’s sponsors and the community for their support.

“Anybody we met in this process that got us to this Sunday — thank you,” Brister said.

The Maples’ coach, Jim Seavey, said the key to his team’s success in the postseason will be “how we handle the ball.”

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Like Barros, Seavey also expected the Maples to be playoff contenders.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Just knowing the talent level and work ethic of the young ladies that I was bringing on board to be part of the first-ever team — I knew we would be more than competitive.”

Seavey said that rebounding will be another key to beating the feisty Shamrocks.

“We will be as good as we rebound,” Seavey said. “That’s the bottom line. I’ve said that for 30 years of coaching at the various levels, that you are going to be as good as you rebound. We have to take care of the ball and rebound. That is the bottom line.”

Seavey said the Shamrocks — depending on who they bring to game — are a solid team with talent.

“It is hit or miss because you never know what roster you are going to play,” he said. “That’s one thing that is very frustrating about this whole situation. We played them twice in the regular season and once in the preseason, and none of the those three times we played the same team. It is a different cast of characters every single time. 

“We have to be ready for for anything. One time we played, they were very guard orientated. The next time we played them, they were very post orientated. This time, I am guessing it will be a combination.”

But, he added, the ambiance of a Maples home game is a treat for fans.

“It should be a great atmosphere,” Seavey said. “That’s one thing we have over everybody is we play in atmosphere that is so much more like a professional basketball game …” 


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