Andrew Morong has coached at Central Maine Community College for 11 seasons and has led the Mustangs to an 85% winning percentage, including winning 90% of their Yankee Small College Conference games. Morong has also coached 21 All-Americans, 19 Academic All-Americans and 25 All-Conference selections.

His teaching of the game has been passed along to many of his players. Three of them are hoping the winning does too.

Three former CMCC teammates are now first- or second-year high school girls basketball coaches in Maine — Alex Bessey (Mt. Blue), Kristina Blais (Edward Little) and Cagney O’Brien (Lincoln Academy). The trio all played together for the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season.

“Andrew has created an army of strong women under him that are now all blossoming as women in their own lives,” Blais said. “It is simply incredible.”

Central Maine Community College’s Kristina Blais, left, and Brooke Reynolds defend as UMaine-Augusta’s Emily Billings, middle, grabs the ball before it goes out of bounds during a game in Augusta in 2017. Kennebec Journal file photo

Blais played at CMCC from 2016-18 and served as a two-year captain. As a player, she was a part of the 2017 national championship-winning team, and the Mustangs sported a perfect YSCC record (36-0) during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. In 2018, she transferred to the University of Southern Maine, and played for another two years before graduating in 2020. After her graduation, Morong brought Blais back to the Mustang family, this time as an assistant coach. During her year of coaching in 2022, Blais added another national championship to her Mustangs legacy.

Blais is also the owner of Maine Basketball Club, which is a Lewiston-based organization that provides high-level basketball in the area, from travel leagues and in-house leagues to individual training. She took over the company at just 22 years old.


“It provides opportunities that I knew were lacking, because I grew up here,” Blais said. “It was just important for me to give back to the community.”

The Lewiston High School graduate returned to the high school level last year as the head coach at former rival Edward Little High School, which is currently 3-3 this season. Although she is no longer affiliated with the CMCC program, she can’t go too far in Maine before facing a fellow Mustang on the court — this time as the opponent.

Edward Little High School head coach Kristina Blais talks with her team during a timeout in a Dec. 8 game in Auburn against Oxford Hills. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Blais and Bessey were teammates at CMCC during the 2017-18 season, when the Mustangs returned to the national championship game before ultimately losing. Bessey is now the head coach at Mt. Blue Regional High School, a fellow Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference member with Edward Little. The team is currently 2-2 this season. One of those two losses occurred Dec. 12, when the Cougars played the Red Eddies at home and lost 71-15.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a love,” Blais said about playing against teams coached by her former teammates. “Alex and Cagney love the game just as much as I do, and they understand the game just as much as I do. With them leading their squads, they’re going to be in very good hands.”

Bessey is a 2017 Spruce Mountain High School graduate. At CMCC, she played basketball and softball before transferring to University of Maine at Farmington in 2019. There, she played basketball and field hockey and graduated during the winter of 2021. In 2022, she was the assistant coach for Spruce Mountain, before landing her current gig as head coach at Mt. Blue.

University of Maine at Farmington’s Alex Bessey, right, defends Bates’ Davina Kabantu as she drives to the basket during the first quarter of a Nov. 16, 2021, game in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I played two sports my whole life, but basketball was a year-round thing,” Bessey said. “When I was in basketball season, I was playing, but then out of season, I had AAU and travel teams. It was my life.”


Bessey said she comes from a basketball family, with her brother and uncle still coaching today. Her dad is the former Spruce Mountain girls basketball coach, but now coaches baseball at UMaine-Farmington. She also said with her February birthday, she has spent nearly every birthday in a basketball gym.

“My dad coached when I was little, and if I didn’t have a babysitter, I would go to practice with him, and I’d have a ball in my hand then,” Bessey said. “When I had middle school practices, he would be coaching the high school, so I’d walk up there and continue to have a ball in my hands.”

“I had a lot of older female athletes that I looked up to when I was younger, and I wanted to be like them, so I pushed as hard and worked as hard as I could to hopefully do that,” she said.

O’Brien is in her first year of coaching, at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, which is currently undefeated at 5-0. She is also coaching her little sister, Scarlett O’Brien, which Cagney said has been a highlight.

Lincoln Academy’s Cagney O’Brien tosses up a shot over the outstretched arm of Poland’s Nathalie Theriault during a tournament game at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Feb. 23, 2017. John Ewing/Portland Press Herald

She is a Lincoln Academy graduate herself, and played at CMCC from 2017-2019. She was a part of the 2018 national championship runner-up team, right alongside Blais and Bessey. At CM, she said she didn’t play a ton her freshman year, and was out her entire sophomore season due to a stress fracture in her leg.

“My second year, I was injured and ended up missing the whole season,” O’Brien said. “That’s where I kind of learned about the coaching role. I learned a lot from Coach (Morong) growing that way, and where I kind of developed like this new love of basketball from like a coaching perspective.”


Despite her career-ending injury, O’Brien said Morong ensured her she was still an active participant for the Mustangs, and encouraged her to coach. She said she remembers hearing about her injury, and then being called into Morong’s office, when he asked her what she was going to do to still impact the team, despite being unable to contribute on the court.

“Our relationship definitely changed from that, and I was just glad that he still wanted me to be part of the program and help an impact in a different way, rather than just sitting on the bench and cheering,” O’Brien said.

She said she felt like the team really listened to her in her new role, and in turn she never missed a practice or game unless she had a doctor’s appointment.

After her two years at CMCC, she transferred to William Peace University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Once she graduated, Morong asked her to come back to CM and be an assistant coach. She coached for one year and helped lead the team to their 2022 national championship win.

“A lot of us are still really close. I mean, I talk to Alex every day, we’re very close,” O’Brien said. “I can always call Kristina when I need it. I called her when I was applying for the job at Lincoln. She helped me walk through going in to be prepared for the interview and summer ball.”

Blais said she will always cherish the sisterhood that was ingrained in the Mustangs basketball team.


“When you’re at CM, it’s like a complete sisterhood,” Blais said. “I still talk to my teammates, and my former coaches all the time. It’s like just family through and through, it’s incredible.”

“It definitely is very much a family atmosphere (at CMCC). If you put in the effort and care for your teammates they will care for you,” O’Brien said. “Same with like the program, the program will always give back to you if you give what they’re asking for.”

Blais, Bessey and O’Brien said they have all taken skills and lessons Morong taught them during their time at CM and apply it to their own teams.

Central Maine Community College women’s basketball coach Andrew Morong reacts after a great play by his team during a Dec. 2 game against Paul Smith’s in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I was lucky enough, I started playing for Andrew when I was in eighth grade (for AAU), so I’ve spent some years with him and I’ve seen a lot of different level practices, but usually, typically, he keeps it the same,” Bessey said. “So, I take a lot of that, we do a lot of his drills. A lot of sometimes I say things, I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh, that was Coach Morong,’ which is too funny.”

O’Brien said she will still find herself showing up to CM practices to get new drills or coaching skills from Morong.

“I mean, obviously, you have to put in like offensive, defensive stuff, but I think creating the core values of the team and the foundation is going to be the most important part that first couple years,” O’Brien said. “Building the trust within the team and their coach is something I took away from CM, because we did a lot of team building.”

All three agreed that the secret to CM’s success is Morong himself, as he can recruit solid players, and works to build them up to their highest potential. Once they’ve graduated, if there is any coaching interest, Blais said Morong will do whatever it takes to help them get their foot in the door in the Maine basketball coaching world.

For this trio, he accomplished just that.

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