If the top-seeded Houlton High School girls basketball team is going to beat No. 4 Hermon on Wednesday night in their Class B North semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, the Shires are going to have to do it without 5-foot-8 junior forward/guard Kristen Graham, who is second on the team in rebounds, assists and steals.
Graham tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee late in the regular-season finale, a 52-46 overtime win at Hermon on Feb. 8.
Her dad, Houlton head coach Shawn Graham, said they will try to continue to try to replace her “by committee” as they did in Saturday’s hard-fought 47-39 victory over upset-minded Mount Desert Island, the eighth seed.
The Shires beat the Hawks twice during the regular season, 58-51 in double overtime in Houlton on Jan. 21 and the rematch in Hermon earlier this month.
It’s rare to have a tournament game between two teams who played two overtime games during the regular season.
They also met in the Class B North final last season with Houlton emerging 51-35 en route to a second consecutive state championship.
The Shires won the “C” title two years ago and backed it up with a “B” crown last year.
“We’ve been so busy in practice moving everybody around in such short period of time. We don’t have anybody on the bench who can play both forward and guard,” said Graham.
He acknowledged that his daughter’s loss, “hurts us a lot because we aren’t really deep to begin with and she does a lot of intangibles for us.”
In addition to averaging seven points, four steals, four assists and seven rebounds per game, Graham said his daughter “guarded one of the other team’s better offensive players.”
He said sophomore Tessa Solomon (6 points) and freshman Abbie Worthley gave them some quality minutes off the bench vs. MDI and will be two of the players who will try to fill the void left by Graham’s absence.
Hermon coach Chris Cameron said he was sorry to see her sidelined and called Graham an “unsung hero.
“She does a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Cameron. “She took over Natalie Hill’s role from last year. She does a lot of the grunt work. She grabbed three offensive rebounds and converted put-backs in our game with them up there and without those, the game never would have gone to overtime.”
But Cameron knows even without her, the Shires are still a very good basketball team thanks to Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-teamer Kolleen Bouchard.
“When she’s on the floor, they are probably the best team out there because she’s one of the best players, if not the best player in the state,” said Cameron. “She had 30 and 27 (points) against us this season. We’re going to have to make her work hard and try to limit her touches.”
Shawn Graham said he feels fortunate to have beaten Hermon twice and said they will be a handful for his Shires.
“I said at the start of the season that they might very well be the best all-around team in Class B,” said Graham. “Their post game is very good with (Lauren) Plissey and (Emi) Higgins. They have a lot of length. (Maddie) Pullen has improved her shot a lot. She gets it off quicker.”
He also said guard Alex Allain is quick and dangerous on the perimeter.
“They live off offensive rebounds and the free throw line. Their bigs attack (the glass) and get a lot of second-chance opportunities. We’ve got to limit those. We’re also going to have to handle their press. We didn’t handle it well the other night against MDI.”
“We’re two pretty battle-tested teams who know each other well. It should be fun,” said Cameron.