LIMESTONE — Perhaps you can call the Limestone/MSSM team the Rodney Dangerfield of girls’ basketball in Aroostook County – attention and respect can be tough to attain.
The Eagles began the weekend ranked No. 1 in Eastern Class D with a 13-0 record, but who knew?
It’s tough getting publicity when you have Washburn, the three-time defending state champion, located 18 miles to your west.
And 18 miles to the north there’s a 2,000-point scorer named Parise Rossignol in Van Buren.
And 18 miles south, the Presque Isle girls are working on a 58-game winning streak.
Still, many folks up north do know what the Eagles have done is nothing short of amazing considering injuries to key players.
It starts with guard Chelsey Pelkey, arguably their best player, averaging 15 points a game. She went down with a concussion five games ago and there’s no timetable for her return.
Then forward Jordyn Hopkins got hit with an elbow during a game and banged her head on the floor. She’s out of the lineup and her return is unknown. Take away another seven points and seven rebounds a game.
“When we lost Chelsey,” said Alexis Bell, one of the five seniors on the team, “it was tough because she’s a huge part of our team. And then when Jordyn got hurt it was a real bummer. You hate to see anyone get hurt but we’re not going to let it be an excuse.”
“It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s a long process to get them back and we don’t want to hurry that process,” said Coach Ryan O’Neal. “That being said, other players have stepped up and it’s been kind of the next guy in thing.”
That includes Madeline Williams, who is the lone player from the Maine Math and Science School in Limestone. Her family drives back and forth from their home in Fort Kent (about 50 miles) to get her to practices and games. MSSM operates on a college schedule and the past few weeks have been semester break time.
This week Limestone plays Van Buren and Fort Fairfield for a second time. They are the toughest teams on the schedule and O’Neal knows wins will be much tougher to get.
“There was a point in the season when I looked at things and said ‘Wow, if we get on the right side of the tourney bracket, who knows what we would could do’ ” said O’Neal.
The Eagles have racked up enough Heal points to get to the postseason and O’Neal still thinks his team will compete hard with a press-and-run style.
An example of that was Friday night when Bell scored 11 points and Williams scored six in a 51-44 win over Ashland.
As for the injured players, can they return and help at tourney time?
“I hope so. Oh, I hope so,” said Bell.
MATT KINNEY was named the Hermon High baseball coach this week.
Kinney won the Mr. Baseball Award in 1995 as a Bangor High pitcher, was drafted by the Red Sox, and ended up pitching in the big leagues with the Twins, Royals, Brewers and Giants.
He retired from baseball in 2010 and recently moved back to Maine from Arizona.