The Houlton girls basketball team, which has won gold balls in two different classes the last two seasons, entered the 2016-17 campaign with championship aspirations yet again.
If the first two games of the season are any indication, the road to the state title could very well go through coach Shawn Graham’s club yet again.
Houlton has looked every bit like a defending Class B state champion in winning its first two games, opening the season with a 72-50 triumph over Orono before edging Aroostook County rival and fellow Class B contender Presque Isle 59-57 on Tuesday evening.
Shires’ junior Kolleen Bouchard has shown no signs of slowing down.
Bouchard, who led Houlton’s girls soccer team to a North Class C regional championship game appearance this fall, pumped in 36 points in the victory over the Red Riots while leading the way with 19 in Tuesday’s thrilling victory over the Wildcats.
Houlton certainly showed its championship mettle on Tuesday, as it built a 15-point lead only to see the Wildcats rally late. But Bouchard’s free throws in the final seconds allowed the Shires to emerge with a key early-season road triumph.
While Bouchard is certainly one of the state’s top players – she was a BDN All-Maine first-teamer as a sophomore and a second-team selection her freshman campaign, the Shires will have plenty of depth around her in players such as Aspen Flewelling and Rylee Warman.
Houlton returns to action on Saturday afternoon against Central of Corinth in an early-season battle of 2-0 clubs.
George Stevens Academy has won its first two games of the season, the most recent being a 52-33 over Class C North contender Piscataquis of Guilford on Tuesday behind Morgan Dauk’s 25 points. The Eagles compiled a 13-5 record last winter before falling to Calais in a preliminary game, and GSA could be a team to watch out for come February.
Woodland earned a pointworthy early-season win on the road on Tuesday, going into Harrington and edging defending Class C champion Narraguagus 51-50. The Dragons, led by a 13-point effort from Shawna Monk, outscored the Knights 19-11 in the second quarter to take a seven-point halftime lead before holding on for the victory.
John Bapst used a 19-5 second-quarter run to erase an early six-point first-quarter deficit against Foxcroft Academy in posting a 54-49 win, improving coach Mike Webb’s Crusaders to 2-0 leading into Thursday’s home game against Class C foe Bucksport. Crystal Bell registered 19 points to power the Crusaders.