Balanced Foxcroft girls eye deep tourney run

Grace Bickford (left) of Foxcroft Academy, pictured during a Jan. 29, 2016, game against Houlton, has been among the catalysts who have helped propel the Ponies into the upper echelon of the Class B North basketball standings.

Grace Bickford (left) of Foxcroft Academy, pictured during a Jan. 29, 2016, game against Houlton, has been among the catalysts who have helped propel the Ponies into the upper echelon of the Class B North basketball standings.

The Foxcroft Academy girls basketball team opened some eyes in the Class B North basketball tournament a year ago, leading top seed Houlton late in their quarterfinal before the Shires pulled out a 61-52 triumph en route to the state championship.

The Ponies from Dover-Foxcroft have opened even more eyes this season as they enter Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Central of Corinth with a nine-game winning streak and a 14-3 record that puts them third in the Heal Points and well within striking range of No. 2 Presque Isle.

“We didn’t lose much off last year’s team and we’re playing with more confidence,” said fifth-year head coach Blake Smith, who considers this his best team. “We’re a year older and a little more experienced. We have a couple of new kids who are playing a contributing role and a couple of sophomores who have stepped up.”

The Ponies have won 11 of their last 12 after a 3-2 start and he said his team’s three losses to John Bapst (54-49), Hermon (58-42) and Houlton (60-47) were games they could have won.

They avenged their loss to Hermon with a 38-33 road victory last month.

“We’re shooting the ball from the perimeter better than we did last year and we’re a tough matchup inside for anybody,” said Smith.

The Ponies have plenty of experience with four seniors in the starting lineup and a fifth who alternates as a starter. They have scoring balance, size and athleticism.

“‘We’ve had at least five different players lead us in scoring in a game,” said Smith. “We don’t have that one player teams can key on. That gives us some diversity.”

He also said there have been games where they’ve had three or four girls in double figures.

Two of the catalysts are 5-foot-10 senior guard Grace Bickford and 6-1 senior forward Abby Simpson.

Smith said Bickford is among the Big East leaders in scoring, rebounds and assists while Simpson is right at the top of the rebounding stats.

“Grace is one of the better all-around players in the league. She has been a good playmaker for us. She has been very, very steady,” said Smith. “Abby is one of the league’s best post players. She got off to a slow start but has had some very good games lately. She was one of the top scorers in the Big East last year but we have spread things out (scoring-wise) more this year.”

Senior point guard Kendra Ewer (5-6) is “good defensively and can shoot from the perimeter,” said Smith.

The Bourget twins, 5-5 guards Abbi and Alli, share a starting spot with the other being one of the first players off the bench.

“I call them our spark plugs. They score big baskets when we need one,” said Smith.

The other starter is 5-10 sophomore forward Mackenzie Beaudry, who is “extremely athletic and a great post player,” according to Smith.

The Ponies also have quality depth in players like 6-0 senior center Emily Mikoud, 5-8 sophomore guard Caitlin Seavey, 5-9 junior forward Avery Nelson and 6-3 senior center Rebecca Huettner.

Mikoud is playing for the first time and Smith said she is the, “best rebounder I’ve had play for me.”

“I love this group. They give you 110 percent all the time. I’ve known these girls for five years and I knew this group was special,” said Smith, who hopes they have a long postseason run.