After the buzzer sounds on Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball final, another season will have quickly shot by.
The high school and college basketball season in Maine, like a lot of others, was full highlights and I’ve selected my top eight after careful consideration.
— No. 1: It has to be the University of Maine women’s basketball team proving the other eight American East women’s coaches wrong when they picked Maine to finish sixth of nine teams in a preseason coaches poll.
Maine not only finished first in the regular season with a 13-3 record, but also won the conference tournament, beating Albany in the championship game in Bangor before a home crowd of more than 3,000.
It was their first trip to the NCAA tourney in 14 seasons and the Black Bears finished 23-10 overall.
I remember watching Maine’s only exhibition game at the Cross Insurance Center in late October when it was beaten by Division II Stonehill 68-49. Then, I saw Maine’s game in early November, losing to Tulane 42-34 at Memorial Gym in Orono in its first non-conference game.
Wow, what a difference five months can make in a basketball season. Maine’s success came under the leadership of interim head coach Amy Vachon, who was recently named the full-time head coach.
— No. 2: The Winslow High School girls coming from the sixth seed and a prelim win over No. 11 Orono in the Class B North tournament and then knocking off No. 3 Mount Desert Island, No. 2 John Bapst and No. 5 Presque for the Class B North title and then defeating Lake Region for the state championship.
— No 3: The Windham boys knocking off two-time defending Class AA state champion Portland 55-53 in the North semifinals.
— No 4: The Edward Little boys and girls teams winning state Class AA titles and the Greely boys and girls teams capturing Class A state titles were unique feats.
— No. 5: Coach Mark Reed’s Hermon Hawks winning their first ever high school state boys basketball title by going a perfect 22-0 as the only undefeated team in the North in all classes. The Greely boys accomplished the same in Class A South.
— No. 6: The top individual player performance was by Bangor High School 6-foot-5 junior forward Matt Fleming. The Oxford Hills transfer and younger brother of UMaine’s Andrew Fleming broke a 75-year school scoring record by scoring 45 points in a game at Windham. He broke the record of 42 points set by Bobby Graffam back in 1943. Matt has already been offered a full scholarship by the UMaine men’s basketball program.
— No. 7: On opening night at Lee Academy the Pandas knocked off two-time defending Class C North state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill 68-63. GSA then went on to win 21 straight games, capped off by capturing its third straight state title.
— No. 8: The naming of Houlton’s Kolleen Bouchard as Maine’s Miss Basketball and Maine’s Gatorade Player of the Year, matching her older brother Kyle achievements in 2015. It was the first time a sister and brother have received the Miss and Mr. Basketball awards. Kolleen is following her brother to Bentley.
It has been another memorable basketball season and this is my final column of the season for the newspaper but I will still be doing my “Off the Rim” blog on the BDN website.