The waters that are the Class A North girls basketball ranks can be difficult to navigate at times, and Brewer is one team that has had to face a challenging early-season schedule.
Even though coach Chris Horr’s club entered the season welcoming back a veteran roster that included 12 juniors and seniors, three of the Witches’ first four contests included a rugged slate against defending state champion Lawrence, Skowhegan and Gardiner.
While Brewer came up just short against the Bulldogs and Indians – the loss to Skowhegan being in overtime – the Witches may have jumpstarted their season Wednesday night by going to Gardiner and toughing out a 54-47 victory that could prove to be pointworthy come February.
“We had a really good win to start the season against Cony, and playing Lawrence and Skowhegan back to back, they’re really good teams,” Horr said. “We played really good in both those games, we just came out on the short end of the stick.”
But the Witches managed to finish the job in a tough road environment in Gardiner, keeping the Tigers at bay and never losing the lead during the second half.
“Last night it was more important for us to play in a tight game and come out on the other end of it,” Horr said.
Horr’s Witches improved from a 1-17 2014-15 season to 8-10 and hosting a preliminary-round game last winter, and were at 2-2 heading into another road matchup against an undefeated team, this one at Newport against Nokomis.
“We’re just trying to build upon those successes and learn from those struggles,” Horr said.
Senior Courtney Pearson, who is averaging around 12 points per game, paced Brewer’s offensive attack against Gardiner with 14 points, while Julie Bulliard (12 points) and Cassidy Smith (eight points) supplied the Witches with scoring depth.
Horr said other key players have been Haley Robertson, Ellie Horr and exchange student Bulliard, who hails from Switzerland.
One thing Horr said gave his team some confidence was its effort against Skowhegan, as Brewer has been the only team to crack the 30-point barrier against an Indians team that has held their other opponents to 28, 25, 25 and 16 points.
Skowhegan prevailed in that matchup 53-50, and the teams will meet in Brewer on Jan. 10.
“Either one of us could’ve won that game,” Horr said.
Now that Brewer closed out a tight game against a talented Gardiner club on the road, it could be a sign of things to come from the Witches as the season rolls along.
Presque Isle picked up its third consecutive victory on Wednesday, a 73-26 triumph of Aroostook County rival Fort Kent, the start of a string of five straight road contests for the Wildcats.
The second of those games will send coach Jeff Hudson’s club to the Cross Insurance Center on Friday to battle 4-0 John Bapst in a key early-season Class B North showdown.
Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m.
While Stearns and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill have raced off to 5-0 starts in Class C North, Madawaska has quietly won its first five contests.
The Owls picked up their fifth consecutive victory on Wednesday in Fort Fairfield, eking out a 36-27 victory over the Tigers.
Coach Dean Gendreau’s team, which features only two seniors, is off until after Christmas, when it will host Class D foe Easton in a battle of unbeatens.