Spruce Mountain celebrate after beating Oceanside 56-47 to win the Class B South girls basketball championship on Feb. 24 at the Portland Expo. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

JAY — Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene feels like he is speaking about his girls basketball team when he discusses the Ellsworth Eagles, who are also vying for the Class B state title next week.

Spruce Mountain (20-1) and Ellsworth (18-3) will confront each other for the Class B gold ball at the Portland Expo on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday and moved from Cross Insurance Arena in Portland due to this past weekend’s snowstorm.

Keene has been doing his homework all week on the third-seeded Class B North champion Ellsworth team, which beat No. 1 Old Town 59-52 for the regional crown.

“Obviously there is so much film online, and my wife and I went up Saturday to watch them play Old Town (to) get a look in person as well as on film — and they are really good,” Keene said. “They had a lot of really good guards. I think they set a regional tournament record in 3s made, so they have a lot of really good shooters.

“Their point guard, Abby Rydel, is really good. They have another forward, Grace Jaffrey, who is their leading scorer. She is really good and tough. They have good depth, so they are certainly a challenge for us.”


Rydel scored 21 points against Old Town while Jaffrey pulled down six rebounds.

Keene said the Eagles do not play like Oceanside and are not as big as the Mariners, who lost to the Phoenix 57-47 in the Class B South final. He added that Ellsworth is well-coached by Andy Pooler.

“They are not physically huge, but I think a lot of them play bigger than they are. I think the (Eagles) want to play fast,” Keene said. “They want to get in transition. They want to take a lot of 3s. I think we are two very similar teams …

“They are very disciplined. They are very good in situations. So I have seen plenty of them, but it always seems like it could be a little bit different on game days. But to get to see them in person was really, really good. To be able to see their athleticism, their size, their strength, the pace they play with — they are really good, and they are certainly going to be a challenge for us.

“They play really physical. Sometimes when I am talking about them, I do feel like I am talking about our team a little bit.”

Keene said the Phoenix, who themselves have had strong guard play, have been polishing up their fundamentals.


“We just want to rebound the basketball, defend and don’t turn (the basketball) over, and there is some game plan stuff … and if we can do those three things really well, I think anybody would feel like they are in pretty good position to win,” he said.

The Phoenix also have another asset that has played a huge role in the team’s success.

“(Depth) is certainly a strength of ours,” Keene said. “We play eight consistently, and there’s been games when we’ve gone nine or 10 competently. It is not just bodies. It’s really, really good players, where you come off the bench with Mariyah Fournier, Emily Dubord and Avery Bessey — they are starters on a lot of teams, on most teams, I should say.

“So to be able to have that depth over the course of 32 minutes is certainly a benefit to us. And even deeper than that, we were in foul trouble against Oceanside and Riley Small has to come on the court. Nobody knows who that is, but we know who that it is because she is in here every single day, and she is another good basketball player for us.”

But how do the Phoenix feel about the Eagles?

“(Spruce) really respects them,” Keene answered. “They didn’t get a chance to see them in person. They have seen them on film. They know anytime you get this far, the team that you are playing is going to be a really, really good team. So they are focused. They are ready. They’ve been doing their homework, but they certainly respect them. No question about that.”


Keene is not surprised at Spruce Mountain’s own success during the regular season or in the Class B tournament.

“This whole team, from the seniors down to the freshmen, they have been playing basketball together forever, and in a smaller community like this — when you get special groups like this — people notice,” Keene said. “Expectations were certainly high because of how talented they were, so we certainly knew a good team was coming and they certainly haven’t disappointed thus far.

“I have been in the gym with them since they were fourth, fifth, sixth graders and everybody has known their complete potential. Like I said, they have held up their end to this point.”

Throughout the Phoenix’s playoff quest, their offense had a big quarter or two to pull off each victory.

“I would love to have four blowout periods, but …” Keene said with a wide smile. “But we just have to go there and play well. That stuff certainly happened throughout the regional tournament. We had, I don’t know, it seemed like one quarter every game that we were just fantastic. It would be nice to put a full game together. We have a lot of good players who are capable of that.”

Keene is grateful to the communities for taking a genuine interest in his Phoenix.

“Whether it is the social media stuff, in person, and every time you go to a store in town, people are talking to you about it,” he said. “It is a pretty prideful town.”

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