Nick Winchester couldn’t have scripted a better debut as the head coach of the Hampden Academy girls basketball team.
But Winchester has already put last Friday night’s season-opening 67-29 road win over defending state Class A champion Messalonskee of Oakland behind him.
Messalonskee was 22-0 a year ago and returned a solid nucleus although Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl Basketball First Team selection Sophie Holmes graduated.
“It would be a shame if we let that game define our season,” said the 47-year-old Winchester, who came to Hampden to replace Tim Scott after coaching the Orono High girls the past two seasons. “We have to make sure we don’t lose focus and forget about what we set out to do. It’s just one game. It won’t mean anything if we can’t back it up.
“We have to continue to play hard and focus every time we’re on the floor,” he added. “We want to get better every day. We want to be playing our best basketball in February, not December.”
The Hampden Academy girls shot over 56 percent from beyond the three-point arc (9-for-16) and over 50 percent from the floor, overall, but Winchester said it was the defensive effort that was most pleasing and that will serve a staple of the program.
“It was a very good defensive effort. It was fun to watch,” said Winchester whose Broncos outscored Messalonskee 41-9 in the second half and held the Eagles to three third-quarter points thanks to their half-court, man-to-man trapping defense.
“We limited them to one shot, we didn’t give them easy, uncontested shots, we did a real good job managing their drive-penetration and dribble-drive. We forced them to pitch it a lot. We communicated on screens and when they tried to exchange the ball from side to side. We did a real good job all the way through and it’s something we can repeat,” said Winchester.
But he will also readily admit that there is no shortage of talent on his team.
“We have a lot of experience. We have a lot of kids who have played a lot of basketball. We have a lot of size and we’re very athletic,” said Winchester. “We have all the components we need to have success as a group.
“What we’re doing offensively with these girls is a little bit new. The learning curve is pretty steep. One thing they have gravitated to very well is what we want to do and accomplish on defense,” he said. “They are an extremely willing and committed group. They’re very, very hard-working and they showed up very focused and ready to play on Friday, especially on the defensive end of the floor.”
The six-member senior class of Brooklynn Scott, Braylee Wildman, Peyton Smith, Sophia Narofsky, Marissa Gilpin and Cassidy Burke has played a ton of basketball together and junior Bailey Donovan and sophomore Alydia Brillant both start.
Donovan is a dominant center.
“These girls are very strong (physically). They don’t get pushed off the ball,” said Winchester whose team met Camden Hills in a makeup game on Wednesday and has important games on the horizon with Lawrence of Fairfield on Friday night and Skowhegan on Tuesday evening.
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