Followers of the Hampden Academy boys basketball program have witnessed a New England Patriots-like run during the last dozen years under veteran head coach Russ Bartlett, with three Class A state championships and six regional titles during that span.
Those followers include the area’s youth and middle-school players, all waiting for their chance to add to the legacy.
This year’s team is among the youngest Bartlett has fielded during his tenure, with just two seniors on the roster and a playing rotation armed with numerous sophomores and freshmen.
But the Broncos’ undefeated start entering Wednesday night’s home game against Camden Hills of Rockport suggests the current cast has developed the self-confidence that helped their predecessors thrive under the big lights so many times.
“If you had told me we were going to be 6-0 at the New Year I’d have said you were a little bit crazy,” said Bartlett, “but we’ve found a way and the kids have come together so far, and I really like the way we compete and play together and that we don’t hang our heads.”
The young Broncos could have hung their heads during their most recent game last Friday night, trailing Bangor 36-20 midway through the third quarter.
But a quick 8-0 response after a Hampden timeout pulled the Broncos back into contention, and the 3-point shooting of Bryce Lausier during the fourth quarter — the freshman was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc — set the stage for the team’s leader, junior center Ian McIntyre, to score with 5.8 seconds left for a 51-50 victory that extended the program’s regular-season winning streak to 28 games.
“I thought we didn’t hang our heads when we got down 16,” said Bartlett after the game, “and I didn’t rip them in the huddle when it got to 16 but I pointed to the fact that we were at a point of the game where it was going to go one way or the other.
“I thought we started making stops. We went with a smaller lineup to try to use quickness instead of size and I thought that worked well.”
The narrow road victory over a local rival could have long-term ramifications for these new-look Broncos.
“I thought when the season started we had no idea how to compete,” Bartlett said. “I think we’re still learning at times, but we’re getting there.”
GSA’s Schildroth on top prospect list
Junior guard Taylor Schildroth of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill has been named among eight top high school basketball prospects statewide, according to www.newenglandrecruitingreport.com.
The website primarily ranks players based on their performances at off-season showcases and AAU events but acknowledged Schildroth’s efforts in leading George Stevens to the 2016 Class C state championship.
GSA, 21-1 last winter, is off to a 7-0 start this season good for first place in Class C North.
Among players named to NERR’s Best of the Rest list were junior center Ian McIntyre of Hampden Academy, senior guard Mason Cooper of Lawrence of Fairfield and sophomore forward Matthew Fleming of Oxford Hills of South Paris.