Youthful Bangor girls basketball team going through growing pains

Joe Nelson knew he was going to have to be patient this season in his first campaign as the girls basketball coach at Bangor High School.

The Rams don’t have a senior on their roster and had only two returnees who played significant minutes last season, when the Rams went 8-11 in Class AA North.

Bangor is 2-8 but four of those losses have been by eight points or less and four of the nine players who have been playing consistent minutes are freshmen.

“I’m not disappointed,” said the 47-year-old Nelson, who had been a longtime assistant coach at Bangor, including many years under former boys head coach Roger Reed. “I feel bad because for as hard as they have worked, they deserve some more wins. We play a tough schedule. We play a lot of good teams with a lot of experienced and talented players. Those teams have go-to players and those players have been able to make shots when they need to.”

Nelson said Bangor’s has been exploited at times by opponents.

“When we’ve been in (close) games, we haven’t been able to make enough plays to pull out the win,” said Nelson. “We haven’t been able to get over the hump. It hasn’t been through a lack of effort. We’ll learn from it.”

Opponents have also pressed the Rams and forced turnovers. That has led to sustained runs that have expanded leads.

“We’ve had some bad stretches. The problem is those turnovers are leading to points,” acknowledged Nelson. “But we’ve been getting better (at handling the pressure).”

He noted that he has been using a lot of players, nine most of the time, and they are all gaining valuable experience.

“We have rarely had a practice I wasn’t happy with,” said Nelson. “And even without a senior, we’ve gotten good leadership from our juniors.”

Junior guard Olivia Sharrow and junior forward Abby Houghton are the team’s captains and are the only players who saw a lot of playing time a year ago although several others saw some action. Sharrow can be a productive scorer and Houghton is one of the top rebounders.

Freshman guard Libby Fleming, who transferred from Oxford Hills in South Paris along with twin sister Abby Fleming, has been Bangor’s leading scorer the last couple of games. Sophomore guard Rowan Andrews is the Rams’ top scorer overall, averaging close to 10 points. She has had a couple of 20-point games, according to Nelson. Fleming is averaging eight points per game.

He considers junior guard Sarah Hollis to be his most athletic player and said she continues to improve.

Freshman Maggie Cowperthwaite and junior Madi Drake have been useful rebounders and freshman Riley Andrews, Rowan’s sister, is among their best ballhandlers and assist leaders.

Abby Fleming and junior Malorie Baines have also supplied the Rams with some solid minutes.

Nelson said his team’s athleticism is on par with the other teams in AA North and he has felt pretty good about his team’s half-court, player-to-player defense.

Bangor has held its opponents to fewer than 50 points in eight of its 10 games.

“We take pride in being difficult to score against,” said Nelson, who is excited about the future.

“We just want to keep getting better every day,” said Nelson. “It’s a great group of girls. They have great attitudes. They work hard. They want to get better and want to help their teammates get better.”

Bangor hosts Oxford Hills on Friday at 6 p.m.