Lucas Harmon holds up the gold ball as the Monmouth Academy boys basketball team celebrates winning Saturday’s Class C state championship at the Augusta Civic Center. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Nothing was going to be easy for the Monmouth boys basketball team, and they didn’t expect it to be.

The Mustangs, though, were willing to work and refused to give in, and that’s how they earned Monmouth Academy’s first boys basketball state championship with a 52-50 victory over Mount View in the Class C title game Saturday at Augusta Civic Center.

“I just think, really, and I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way, but our guys just felt like they wanted it more,” Monmouth coach Wade Morrill said.

The Mustangs entered the season not knowing what to expect in 2023-24. Sammy Calder, one of the best players in program history, was back for his senior year, but the rest of last year’s rotation graduated.

Monmouth had reached consecutive regional finals, falling each time to eventual state champion Dirigo. This year, the rotation was going to be filled with varsity newcomers.

“Me and Sammy were talking all season, like, we believe we can get to this point,” fellow senior Lucas Harmon said last week a few days before the state final. “But, you know, we knew it was going to be really difficult.”


Harmon and Calder said they hoped the team could win 10 or 12 games in the regular season, make the Class C South tournament and maybe make a run.

Instead, the Mustangs went 15-3 and were the third seed.

They lost their opener to Maranacook 71-59, but they were without senior Kyle Palleschi, and the way the younger players performed made Calder start to believe that this year’s team might have what it takes.

Monmouth won its next six games and nine of 10 before a crucial stretch that included games against Mt. Abram, Spruce Mountain, Old Orchard Beach and Richmond. If the Mustangs were able to win two of those four, Harmon said, “That’d be amazing. If we went three-for-four, that’d be pretty special.”

The Mustangs lost the first game against Mt. Abram but won the next three. Special.

They followed that with a victory over Class D South champion Valley. They then defeated rival Hall-Dale on the road despite losing Calder to injury. For most of the second half.


Calder missed the final game of the regular season. His absence ended up being another hard thing that made the Mustangs stronger because it gave more playing time and experience to Lucas Harmon’s little brother, freshman Jacob Harmon, who played big in the postseason.


Monmouth’s regional tournament journey was, of course, rough, with games against three rivals: Winthrop, Hall-Dale and Mt. Abram.

Calder scored 15 points in the fourth to help Monmouth pull away from the Ramblers in the quarterfinals. Against Hall-Dale in the semifinals, the Mustangs had to erase a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime before winning 73-67.

Monmouth and Mt. Abram battled until Lucas Harmon’s fourth-quarter heroics helped the Mustangs pull off a 46-43 victory to earn the school’s first boys basketball regional title.

“Our team is just resilient,” Calder said. “We don’t give up. We just want to win.”


In the state final, Mount View went on a 10-0 run, then Monmouth battled back. Then Mount View had another 10-0 run that was even more impressive than the first to build a 24-12 lead in the second quarter.

The Mustangs again fought back, and a late basket by Jacob Harmon got them within one point by the end of the first half.

“When Jake made that offensive rebound putback at the buzzer, and we were only down one, I think our guys really believed going into the locker room that we were good,” Morrill said. “And I think that Mount View might have felt, like, ‘These guys are for real. These guys aren’t going away.’ And I don’t know if their tournament experience had prepared them for that.”

Monmouth won its three regional tournament games by a combined 21 points — and it probably felt like less. Meanwhile, after winning a preliminary game, Mount View won its three C North tourney games by 94 points.

The Mustangs were built for close games. They took the lead in the third quarter and never gave it back.

Seven players scored for Monmouth. Calder, a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist and 1,000-point scorer, led the team with 15 points. Palleschi, who struggled most of the season, had one of his best games with 13 points, including nine in the third quarter when the Mustangs took the lead.


Lucas Harmon fouled out early in the fourth, but Bingham Abbott stepped up and finished with eight points, while Jacob Harmon scored seven. He also had 12 in the semifinal win over Hall-Dale.

The Mustangs are boys basketball state champions for the first time, but this is the third state title for many of the players.

Monmouth won the Class C baseball title last spring and the Class D boys soccer title in the fall.

“It’s not just spontaneous,” Jacob Harmon said. “It’s years of program building. You know, all the varsity coaches run the rec program. So there’s no coincidence that since those coaches have taken over at the rec programs, just slowly we’ve gotten better and better. It’s just an investment as a community, you know, with our sports program. We invest in our youth, and obviously it pays dividends.”

That dedication also lies within the players.

“Just keep grinding, man. … You just keep putting in the work each and every day, and it’ll eventually pay off,” Palleschi said. “And, I mean, we do that, we battle every day. We go at each other every single day. And even on days where we don’t have practice, there’s five, six, seven of us that go to the gym and shoot because we just, we wanted to bring this one home.”

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