A group of young basketball players returned to Maine Tuesday after making history.
MBNation won the AAU boys’ basketball Division I 12th-grade national championship Monday at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla.
“This is a historic victory,” MBNation head coach Mike Woodbury said.
“No other Maine team has ever won a Division I national championship in this tournament.”
The 40-team tournament included AAU squads from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
“Most AAU teams use a run-and-gun offense, but we ran a very disciplined dribble-drive offense and we played defense,” said Woodbury. “We frustrated a lot of the teams who played against us.”
Woodbury said the team allowed an average of 46.5 points per game in 22 games during three tournaments played in Orlando.
“If we could hold a team to 50 points or less, we figured we could win.” Woodbury said.
After losing their first game in pool play in the Division I tournament, the Maine team reeled off six wins to capture the championship.
The team previously finished second to the Ohio Hoopsters in the Super Showcase tournament and went 5-3 in the under-17 international tournament.
“We played 22 games in 10 days and we won 16 of them,” said Woodbury, who operates the Basketball House, a year-round training facility in Saco.
Woodbury said the nucleus of MBNation has been playing in AAU age-group events for the past five years.
“The players on this team are very close,” he said. “They play for each other. There is no selfish play.”
The Maine team also was relatively young for the level of competition it faced.
“We had high school sophomores and juniors playing against 18-year-old seniors,” Woodbury said.
Vukasin Vignjevic, a point guard from South Portland, was the only player on the team who had completed high school. Most of the players still have one or two years of high school eligibility.
MBNation’s roster included Alex Furness, an incoming senior at Wells; Chris Braley, who played at Nokomis High in Newport and will be an incoming junior at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass.; Dustin Cole, an incoming sophomore at Bonny Eagle High; Will Defanti, a former Portland High player who will be an incoming junior at Northfield Mount Hermon in Mount Hermon, Mass.; Liam Langaas, an incoming senior at York; Peter Keaney, a former player at St. Dominic in Auburn who lives on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts; James Kapothanasis, an incoming senior at Cheverus; and Harry Rafferty, who plays at Berwick Academy.
Near the end of Monday’s championship game, Cam Chea, who will be a freshman at Cheverus, and Spencer Ruda, who will be a freshman at Gorham High School, were pressed into service.
“We only had seven of our regular players available for the final day of the tournament, so we dressed these two eighth-graders and let them sit on the bench,” Woodbury said. “We had four players foul out, and both of them had to go into the game to play during the final two minutes.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]