PCHS low on numbers but high in wins

Erin Speed of Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford (right), pictured during a 2015 tournament game in Bangor, has been among the catalysts for coach Brian Gaw's Pirates this season.

Erin Speed of Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford (right), pictured during a 2015 tournament game in Bangor, has been among the catalysts for coach Brian Gaw’s Pirates this season.

There are only 13 girls in the entire program (varsity and junior varsity) and just six get significant playing time for the varsity.

But that hasn’t stopped the Piscataquis Community High School girls basketball team from posting a 10-2 record good for third place in the Class C North Heal Point standings on Tuesday.

Coach Brian Gaw’s Guilford-based Pirates have made it to at least the Class C North quarterfinals the last four years after going 17 years without earning a trip to Bangor.

Gaw, in his 13th season, said he is a little surprised to be 10-2 but noted that things fell into place, “once we started to come together and reduced our turnovers.

“We’re a pretty solid team in many ways. We’re a better defensive team than we were last year. We’re quicker and we average more steals per game,” said Gaw, whose Pirates are allowing just 35.4 points per game.

He said it is a “fun team to coach because the kids are so versatile. There are so many parts you can manipulate. You can put the kids into different positions. They’re smart kids. They’re honor roll students (so they can adapt).”

The addition of 5-foot-9 Spanish exchange student Sara Almirante (10 ppg) has given the Pirates a nice lift. She plays alongside standout junior guard and floor general Erin Speed.

“She has been a real good complement to Erin. They’re totally different players. She can make spectacular plays and get the (opposing) defense out of shape. She can get us moving,” said Gaw.

Co-captain Speed is the team’s leading scorer with 15 points per contest.

“Erin is also one of our top rebounders even though she is only 5-foot-5. She’s very quick, she can score inside and outside and she also probably leads us in steals along with Sara (Almirante). They probably average four to six steals a game each. Erin is playing with much more confidence this year.”

Alivia Hunt is a sophomore forward considered by Gaw to be, “the best 5-foot-6 rebounder I’ve ever had in 13 years. She is tough, physically. She averages double digits in rebounds. She also guards the post. Her scoring is coming along.”

Junior forward Lexi Harris, who stands 5-8, is a “tenacious defensive specialist” and the person assigned to guard the other team’s top inside scorer.

Junior Bailey Lemieux, another 5-8 forward, can do a number of things well including come through with clutch points. Gaw said she hit a game-winning shot with under 30 seconds left in a 39-38 win over Penquis Valley of Milo and had eight of their 13 points in double overtime in a 54-50 triumph over Orono.

Olivia Riitano, a 5-11 freshman center, receives quite a bit of playing time and is continually improving according to Gaw. Senior guard and co-captain Danika Hill supplies valuable leadership.

The Pirates will take on neighbor and rival Dexter on Friday. PCHS won the earlier meeting 34-28.