The Shead High School girls basketball team returned just two starters off last year’s team, which won the Class D North title and lost a tough 28-22 contest to Rangeley in the state championship game.
Coach Dean Preston has returned after serving in Pennsylvania in the Maine Army National Guard last year and his team has welcomed him back by winning its first nine games.
Corey Sullivan coached Shead of Eastport in Preston’s absence last season.
“I’ve been surprised, absolutely,” said Preston. “We’ve been fortunate in that other schools have had a lot of turnover but our juniors and sophomores have stepped up and all the players have really taken to what we do and what we work on and they are reaping the benefits.”
“I knew we were going to be pretty good but I didn’t think we’d be 9-0,” admitted senior point guard Holly Preston, Dean’s daughter and the team’s leading scorer.
She is one of only two seniors.
The other senior and returning starter, guard Katelyn Mitchell, also didn’t expect the team to be 9-0 but said, “we play hard enough (to be 9-0). We’ve earned it.”
Holly Preston, a Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl honorable mention last season, is averaging 18 points and nine assists per game.
Mitchell has led an impressive defensive effort that has seen Shead allow just 27.8 points per game.
“Holly leads the team offensively and Katelyn leads them on defense,” said Dean Preston. “Holly worked hard all summer and is in the best shape she’s ever been in and Katelyn is a tough, hard-nosed defender. They each motivate the team in different ways.”
“We work on defense every practice,” said Mitchell, who also chips in six points per game.
“That’s a big part of our game,” said Holly Preston.
Last year’s run to the state championship game has given the players more confidence and a greater sense of pride this season.
“That gave us a lot more motivation,” said Mitchell. “We want to get back to the state game and, hopefully, win it this year.”
“We have all put in a lot more time this year,” said Holly Preston.
Holly Preston and Mitchell both praised the improvement exhibited by their teammates.
“Our bigs down low have stepped up tremendously,” said Mitchell.
Junior forward Cassidy Wilder, who stands 5-foot-11, was a reserve last year but is averaging 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds this season. Sophomore forward Madison Greenlaw, who is 5-10, saw very little playing time a year ago but is averaging seven points and six rebounds this season.
The other starter is 5-5 freshman guard Halle Sullivan, a good ball-handler and a reliable defender.
The other player who earns significant minutes is 5-8 freshman guard Cassidee Lawrence who, according to coach Preston, is “tough as nails” and is a tenacious rebounder and defender.
Freshmen Kiesha Scott and Justine Cheney also get some minutes and have a bright future, said coach Preston, whose Tigerettes were scheduled to play at East Grand of Danforth on Thursday night.