Allexia Barros, right, of the New England Trailblazers guards Jessica Conant of the LA Maples during a July 10 game in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LA Maples founder and owner Josh Brister did everything he could to get the semipro women’s basketball team off to a roaring start during its inaugural season.

He ran a basketball clinic, established a payroll system and even offered his players insurance on top off his relentless mission to get the word out about the Maples across Maine.

“This is my first time ever dealing with women’s sports in such an intricate way. I’ve never had to see the true discrepancies and mindset (between men’s and women’s sports) so closely before,” Brister told the Sun Journal in August. “You just have to be professional. How are you going to take care of your most-valued assets (players)?”

Brister’s mission is to grow the team as well as get the community involved in the Maples’ program — and get the Maples involved in the community.

“Moving to Portland, Maine, and understanding how important the game of basketball to the women’s side is here, but then not seeing an opportunity for women to pick up and play professionally after they’re done collegiately, was a leading factor,” Brister said. “All we’re trying to do is create a larger community around women’s basketball and bring that to Lewiston.”

The Maples’ first basketball clinic, in May at the Lewiston Memorial Armory, was a success.


“We have to grow the game and this is an integral step in that, having young ladies who are ages 8 to 13, come in, work out with the players, be a part of our first kind of activity day,” Brister said. “We think and we talk about an organization planting seeds, and this is one of those days.”

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline was impressed with Brister’s efforts to integrate the the Maples in the Lewiston-Auburn community.

“Joshua and (Maples general manager) Sarah Soltan are consummate professionals, and collaboration with them has been wonderful,” Sheline, who has become an avid Maples fan, told the Sun Journal. “It’s apparent that they care about the players and this community. Anytime you start something new, it’s challenging. They are working hard to grow their team and the fan base, and the results will pay off for them and our city. We are honored to have them here.”

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline cheers for the Lewiston-Auburn Maples during a game at the Lewiston Armory on July 10. Gov. Janet Mills is seated to Sheline’s right. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The Maples home games at the Lewiston Armory were well-attended by fans from throughout the state, including former Edward Little High School and University of Maine standout and current professional basketball player Troy Barnies, and Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

The founding of the LA Maples was first announced in October 2021. The team held a couple of tryouts in April that drew players from the Lewiston-Auburn area, from throughout Maine and surrounding states.

The LA Maples didn’t disappoint in their first game against the New England Trailblazers in the Women’s American Basketball Association. The Maples’ Kaitlyn Mathieu (23 points) and Kayla Vangelist (17 points) led the team to a resounding 83-39 victory in July.


“The ball movement and the team play were great,” Maples coach Jim Seavey said. “For the first game of the inaugural season, I thought we played really well together. It was great team basketball for the first game.”

Soon after their loss to LA, the Trailblazers disbanded. The Maples took advantage and signed the Blazers’ top player, Allexia Barros, who also is one of the WABA’s top players.

Barros, the niece of former NBA player Dana Barros, joined a team that included players former area high school standouts — Edward Little’s Grace Fontaine, Dirigo’s Jessica Conant and Oxford Hills’ Tianna Sugars, as well as Durham’s Allie Goodman and Marley Groat, who played at Freeport (Goodman began her high school career at Pine Tree Academy); some who grew up elsewhere but are now area residents, such as Julie McCabe of Lewiston; and others from throughout Maine, some with international pro experience.

Grace Fontaine of the LA Maples drives on defenders during a WABA playoff game against the Mount Vernon Shamrocks on Sept. 11, 2022. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

After building a regular season 4-1 record, the Maples hosted the Mt. Vernon Shamrocks in the playoffs, but came up short, losing 89-62 on Sept. 11.

“Not the outcome we wanted, not even the outcome we expected, which is the crazy part …” Brister said. “When Jim and I talked about this, we did not think today was possible. It is a different ball game when your shots drops, right?”

Brister and Soltan are in lock step when it comes to promoting women’s basketball in Maine.

“The promotion of women’s sports in general is absolutely why I wanted to be involved,” Soltan told the Sun Journal. “The women’s sports world right now is experiencing a renaissance, like a new wave of serious investment. So I think we’re really in this watershed moment for women’s sports, and I think the Maples can be a part of that bringing the wider world of women’s sports to a small city like Lewiston and a smaller state like Maine.”


Editor’s note: The top 10 area sports stories of 2022 were voted on by the Sun Journal sports staff.

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