HAMPDEN — Zach Gilpin admits he has counted the number of gold basketballs in the trophy case at Hampden Academy. There’s one for the 1976 girls’ team, one for the 2005 boys’ team and one from last year, when Zach and his younger brother, Nick, helped the Broncos go undefeated.
Gilpin and his teammates are on a mission to add another.
After Friday night’s overtime win at Brunswick, the Broncos are 3-0 and have yet to play a home game.
Gilpin, a 6-foot-5 senior, is doing his part, totaling 76 points in those three games and showing why he might be the best player in Eastern Maine.
“I take basketball seriously. I have since the fourth or fifth grade,” said Gilpin.
Gilpin pumped in 30 points Tuesday night in an 84-59 victory against Bangor, scoring from nearly every spot on the floor.
“We didn’t match his physicality; not many can,” said Bangor Coach Ed Kohtala. “Usually it’s his transition that hurts you, but he really went to work inside, very blue-collar like.”
“Zach is hard to guard because he can step away for a basket, he can drive the ball and he can post up,” said his coach, Russ Bartlett. “He has the ability to make the game look slow for himself. He can make it look easy at times.”
Perhaps the game looks so easy because he’s worked so hard at it, with offseason workouts, AAU play and lots of lifting.
“Since my sophomore year I’ve done a summertime lifting program, lifting about five days a week,” said Gilpin. “During the season it’s about three times a week. It has made a big difference.”
Gilpin wants to play in college, perhaps at Bates, Franklin Pierce or Stonehill. But that’s next year.
This year he wants to help his Broncos win back-to-back gold balls.
Gilpin knows his team has a big bullseye on its back because of its status as the defending champion, but he’s not worried about expectations that come with it.
“I do my best and don’t worry about the other stuff. If I have a bad game, I come home and my loving mother tells me I played great anyway … that’s always a bonus,” said Gilpin.
As a former Bronco player and now coach, Bartlett knows his Hampden history. He knows he’s seeing a special player.
“He already is one of the best,” said Bartlett. “It’s arguable that by the time he’s done he could be the best ever. He’s certainly in the conversation with the (Jordan) Cooks and (Graham) Saffords and (Derek) Rogersons and (John) Coombs.”
• Fresh off becoming the state’s all-time scoring leader in soccer (127 goals), Ian Lee of Madawaska is averaging 19 points through three games for the basketball team.
FOOTBALL: Josh Gray of Bucksport was named Little Ten Conference player of the year. Gray caught 24 passes for 424 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns, kicked 34 of 36 PATs and had three interceptions.
The Golden Bucks were undefeated before losing to Oak Hill in the Class D state final.