Scan the rosters of the top boys basketball teams in Maine and you’ll no doubt come across some individual stars, those players who consistently emerge at key points of close contests.
But depth and balance are often just as important to those successful runs, enabling teams to do much more when it comes to such facets of the game as fast-break offense and full-court defense while making it difficult for opposing teams to gear their game plans to stop any particular player.
The best example of that in the region so far this season may be the Mount Desert Island Trojans, top-ranked in Class B North with a 11-0 record after Monday night’s 71-50 victory at Foxcroft Academy.
Through Jan. 10, coach Justin Norwood’s club had no player averaging as many as 12.8 points or six rebounds per contest, yet MDI has averaged 69.2 points per game while scoring fewer than 60 points just twice — 59 and 58 points in its two wins over second-ranked Hermon.
“Coach tells us all the time that there’s 14 different starters on our team so we need to be ready to play every night,” said Trojans’ forward Russell Kropff, one of nine seniors on a club that advanced from the No. 12 seed to the regional semifinals in 2015 before bowing out in the quarterfinals last February. “If we’re not playing well there’s somebody right behind us that’s going to come in and do the job.”
Classmate Graham Good was the scoring star against Foxcroft with 25 points, but with MDI’s depth he knows that minutes played from one game to the next is dependent on consistency of performance.
“In the John Bapst game at home we didn’t play very well, and coach doesn’t hesitate to put the next guy in if someone isn’t playing well,” said Good. “He always tells us if you’re not playing well and you come out you better not be mad, and we’ve really embraced that this year.”
While MDI has upheld its preseason status as one of the favorites in Class B North so far this winter, six of the Trojans’ last seven regular-season games are against teams with winning records.
“I think we have a great group of guys this year, we’ve built a really good team,” said Kropff. “Everybody’s bought into what we want to do and what we’re trying to do to get to our destination. It’s not a goal, it’s a destination.”
Red Eddies hope to build on steady success
The Edward Little boys basketball team has been a model of consistency during the last eight years.
The 2009 and 2010 seasons produced the Auburn school’s first Eastern Maine Class A championships since 1957, and the 2011 campaign led the Red Eddies back to the regional final.
The last five years have been nearly as good, but those consecutive tournament appearances that all ended in the semifinals have left a bittersweet feeling.
That’s why as coach Mike Adams’ club continues to lead Class AA North this winter with a 12-0 record after Monday’s 70-56 victory at Mount Ararat of Topsham, the success to date has been absorbed in moderation.
“We’ve been 18-0 before so we’re not talking about going 18-0, nobody’s talked about it except maybe our manager,” said EL coach Adams, whose team’s start was highlighted by consecutive victories over Deering, Cheverus and defending state champion Portland — teams with a combined 24-5 record — within an eight-night span in mid-December.
“Our goal is to get better, and whether we end up 18-0 or 17-1 or 16-2 or 15-3 we’re still a good team and we’re still going to keep working to get where we want to be.”
This year’s EL roster has just three seniors, but forward Jarod Norcross-Plourde and guards Samatar Iman and C.J. Jipson are all pivotal players, along with the likes of juniors Tyler Morin and Darby Shea and 6-foot-4 sophomore Wol Maiwen.
“I think we’re balanced overall,” said Norcross-Plourde, a top three-sport athlete who will play baseball on scholarship at the University of Hartford beginning in 2018. “Last year we had three or four that were good, this year we’re up to at least six.
“We’re not the most physically imposing team,” he added. “But we’re all pretty athletic and we’re quick so that helps us inside.”
Another key to EL’s success this season has been its ball movement, as evidenced by its 20 assists during last Thursday’s 67-49 victory at Bangor.
“We’ve said all along that our strength is us as a unit, not as individuals,” said Adams, “and when we play together we’re pretty good.”