The chronological side of the Hermon High School boys basketball roster suggests a team maybe a year away from championship contention.
The squad boasts just one senior, and the Hawks’ starting lineup includes two sophomores and a freshman.
But don’t let that fool you, because early indications — particularly Wednesday night’s 70-65 victory over Orono — suggests that coach Mark Reed’s club will be a contending team in Class B North for the duration of the young 2016-17 season.
“I think we’re ready,” said Hawks’ guard Keenan Marseille, one of two junior starters. “If we keep playing like this, work on our defense a little bit and keep hitting our shots we can beat any team in this league. That’s what we think, we’re confident about it.”
The early season test against a bigger, more physical Orono team that has been on the brink of a regional championship for the last three years only to suffer some heartbreaking tournament defeats — those three losses came by a combined eight points — showed Hermon to be a blend of quick, athletic youngsters with a collectively accurate shooting touch.
Six 3-pointers staked the Hawks to a 38-33 halftime lead in a game they trailed just once, at 9-8 midway through the first quarter.
“The kids shot the ball pretty well early, they played with confidence early,” said Reed. “The ball going in certainly put us in position where we weren’t battling for some of those offensive rebounds and maybe didn’t pick up a foul or two on misses.
“It also allowed us to get back and establish ourselves a little bit defensively, but more than anything it just helped our confidence as the game went on.”
There were inevitable signs of youth during the second half as Orono used fullcourt and halfcourt defensive pressure to narrow a 14-point third-quarter deficit down to 59-55 on a Keenan Collett basket with 2:46 left in the game.
But led by the floor play of Marseille and the shooting of sophomore Garrett Trask, the Hawks regrouped and secured the victory.
“I thought we let that little bit of pressure, which wasn’t hard pressure, get to us,” said Reed. “A little bit of our inexperience showed up but I thought we handled it well for it being this early in the season. We didn’t make every decision right but the kids fought through it and showed some togetherness.”
Trask led the way with 20 points, but the Hermon attack was balanced with Marseille (17 points), freshman swingman Isaac Varney (14), sophomore guard Cody Hawes (10) and junior forward Jordan Bishop (nine) all making major contributions.
“We’ve had pretty good balance all year so far and that’s a credit to the kids,” said Reed. “They’re skilled kids, they enjoy playing together, and I can really say that one through 12. They play unselfishly and they enjoy each other’s success.”
Pivotal to Hermon’s cohesion is the versatility of Marseille, the son of former University of Maine basketball player Fritz Marseille and a third-year varsity player for the Hawks.
When he wasn’t driving the ball to the basket himself against Orono, he was feeding teammates for open shots en route to six assists.
“To be a good team you’ve got to get your teammates into it,” said Marseille. “What I want to do is get my teammates involved, get them open shots and have them score. Once they score, it makes it easier for me to score.”
And when Orono upped its defensive intensity, Marseille was most prominent in advancing the ball from backcourt to frontcourt without harm.
“Keenan’s a good player, his role is to lead us,” said Trask. “He’s the leader on this team and when it’s his time to take control, he takes control.”
It’s a role Marseille embraces.
“Last year when I was a sophomore we had four seniors,” he said, “but now our starting lineup is junior, junior, sophomore, sophomore and a freshman, so I look at myself as a leader.”
Another unique element of this particular Hermon roster is the addition of Varney, a highly touted first-year player from Glenburn.
The early stages of his ascension to the varsity ranks have been successful, with 17 points in Hermon’s season-opening win at Presque Isle before his 14-point, six-rebound effort against Orono.
“He’s fit in really well, and the kids really took him in from the beginning,” said Reed. “It’s an interesting transition for a kid coming in as a freshman from being someone who had so much success at the middle-school level. This is a different game, and he’s experiencing some of those ups and downs. There’s going to be more ups for him than downs, but there’s still a little bit of that flow.
“He expects a lot of himself,” Reed added, “but he’s got a lot of those basketball instincts and understanding, even for a young kid, so even when things aren’t going well he can still contribute in a lot of ways.”
Some ups and downs are inevitable for this youthful Hermon squad, which must move past its satisfying victory over Orono to host another preseason favorite in Class B North, Mount Desert Island, on Saturday night.
The last time those teams met was in the 2016 Class B North prelims, a game MDI won 60-38 to knock the 12th-ranked Hawks out of postseason play.
“When you have a team that on paper is young like ours is, the one question you have is how much toughness are they going to have? Are they going to be able to play through some adversity? How hard will they compete in certain situations?,” said Reed.
“This group to this point has been really good that way. They’ve competed really hard and they do it together, which as a coach is why you love coming to the gym every day.”