The Piscataquis of Guilford boys basketball team figured to have one of the most demanding starts to the new season of any team in Class C North.
That schedule hasn’t gotten easier — defending state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill was the scheduled opponent Tuesday night — but the Pirates already have a victory few anticipated with their 57-48 upset at Schenck of East Millinocket on Saturday night.
“In 30-something years of coaching, that was one I did not expect,” said PCHS head coach Jamie Russell. “That was a pleasant surprise.”
Schenck, led by Bangor Daily News All-Maine senior forward Justin Thompson, reached the regional semifinals a year ago and is expected to be one of the primary challengers to GSA’s championship reign.
But PCHS, which returned just three seniors from its 2016 team that finished 11th in C North and was ousted in the prelims by neighboring Dexter, took an early lead against the Wolverines and used solid defense and a 33-point performance by junior guard Bryce Gilbert to hold on for the victory.
“He was just all over the place,” said Russell of Gilbert.
The Pirates built their lead to as many as 12 points during the contest, and while Schenck pulled to within five during the game’s final minutes the Wolverines were unable to draw closer.
Junior guard Dillon Drew drew the primary defensive assignment against Thompson despite giving away several inches of height, but with the aid of considerable help-side defensive assistance the Pirates prevented Thompson from bringing his team all the way back.
“Usually they spread the floor and have Thompson get to the rim, but because we got ahead they never really did that,” said Russell. “Our help-side defense was pretty good so we were able to get in front and behind him, but he still scored 23 points.”
In addition to scoring more than half of his team’s points, the 5-foot-11 Gilbert also led a balanced rebounding effort against the taller Wolverines.
“Schenck didn’t shoot well for some reason, and we were really concerned with our rebounding because of our size but we did a really good job of keeping them off the glass,” Russell said.
The Pirates had little time to celebrate their victory over Schenck before hosting GSA, but the Heal points they obtained by defeating Schenck represents a welcome early Christmas present no matter the outcome against the Eagles.
“I told the kids after the game that I was completely surprised by this,” said Russell, “but it’s money in the bank because Schenck’s going to win 15 games.”
Class B clashes
Certainly it’s an exaggeration to suggest that Wednesday night’s boys basketball game at Corinth between host Central and Ellsworth will match the top two teams in Class B North.
But an alphabetized listing of the eight 1-0 teams in the division through Monday’s schedule has those two schools placed atop the division, and the two hopefuls will meet for Central’s home opener in one of at least two notable games Class B North that night.
Central, led by seniors Caleb Shaw and Andrew Speed, are coming off a 56-49 win at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on Saturday, while Ellsworth began the defense of its 2016 Class B North championship by overwhelming Foxcroft Academy 80-41 behind the backcourt play of Zach Harris and Bryce Harmon.
Another game in the division Wednesday sends Orono to Hermon in a battle of 1-0 teams. The veteran Orono squad, featuring seniors Keenan Collett, Nate DeSisto, Jackson Coutts and Jake Koffman, defeated Houlton 61-48 on Saturday while Hermon also went to the County and topped Presque Isle 64-48 behind 17 points apiece from junior Keenan Marseille and freshman Isaac Varney.