Ryan Martin came across a blog last year written by University of Maine men’s basketball coach Bob Walsh about the different characteristics that separate a winning mentality from a losing one.
He distributed copies of the blog to his players at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, hoping they might identify with some of the traits that were in play as the young Warriors struggled during the last two seasons.
“It was just a lot of good stuff,” said Martin, “so I handed it out to the guys and asked them, ‘Do we have a winning mentality or a losing mentality?’ A lot of the stuff we were doing were small things but they really were part of a losing mentality, like walking around with your palms up in the air and not taking any accountability for yourself.
“Through those conversations and thinking about those kind of things we’re starting to turn that mindset around and having some success.”
Indeed, Nokomis is one of just five teams in Class A North still unbeaten after its 59-55 victory over Lawrence of Fairfield Tuesday night.
Junior guard Zach Hartsgrove scored a team-high 22 points for the 2-0 Warriors.
“Zach hit four big free throws down the stretch for us, and that’s how you close out games,” said Martin, the second-year head coach at Nokomis. “You’re strong with the ball, you get fouled and you go to the free-throw line and knock them down.”
Backcourt mate and classmate Josh Smestad added 13 points, while Brad Allen, Josh Perry, Joe Cloutier and Jake Erskine also played key roles for the Warriors.
“For us we were able to make enough plays down the stretch, and that’s something that last year we weren’t able to do,” said Martin.
Nokomis won just 10 games over the previous two seasons, including a 6-12 mark last winter.
But a maturing nucleus — the current roster boasts four seniors, four juniors and four sophomores — gained experience during the trying times, and a hard-fought victory over Lawrence suggests Nokomis is ready to take the next step and contend for a return to postseason play for the first time since 2013.
“We had a chance to be a little better last year but we just didn’t know how to win,” said Martin. “We lost an overtime game to Lawrence early in the season and we lost to Belfast at the buzzer at home. If you get one of those two or both of them you’re 8-10 and in the playoffs.
“But we just look at that now and we learn from it because we hate losing. That’s been the constant conversation, what can we learn from our experiences on the court? It’s starting to pay off.”
The Brewer boys basketball team overcame a scoreboard/clock malfunction that delayed the game for 45 minutes as well as a 16-point first-quarter deficit to score its first victory of the year, a 53-46 decision over Skowhegan.
Defending Class C state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill showed strong early season form Tuesday night with an 80-49 win at Piscataquis of Guilford. Bangor Daily News All-Maine junior guard Taylor Schildroth led the way with 29 points for coach Dwayne Carter’s Eagles, who visit reigning Class B North champion Ellsworth on Friday night. Ellsworth handed GSA its only loss of the 2015-16 season when they met last Feb. 2 at Katsiaficas Gymnasium.
Senior guard George Payne scored 23 points as the Bangor boys basketball team earned its first win of the season with a 57-47 victory at Lewiston. The Rams used a 17-5 second-quarter run to take control and improve their record to 1-1 heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. home opener against 3-0 Cheverus of Portland. Damien Vance added 13 points for coach Carl Parker’s club.