BUCKSPORT — When Bucksport Coach Josh Tripp rolled out the basketballs for that first boys’ practice in late November, he felt like that old Maytag repair man – lonely.
Only seven kids attended. Two dozen others were preparing for the Class D state football final.
“It was a little frustrating. We were happy the kids were doing well in football but you’re champing at the bit to get going,” said Tripp.
Add in a winter with weather causing schedule changes, the Golden Bucks, like other teams, are still trying to find a rhythm.
Bucksport (8-8) enters the final week of the regular season in 10th place in Eastern Class C – two Heal points from hosting a preliminary round game, and two points from not making the playoffs. Eight teams are in a scramble for the last five spots.
As is the case at many small schools, many Bucksport athletes play multiple sports. Ten of the 12 varsity basketball players were in that state football final. Josh Gray, the Little Ten Conference player of the year as a receiver, kicker and defensive back, is a four-year starter at point guard.
He said the toughest adjustment is going from what he calls “football air to basketball air.”
“You stop breathing all that outside air, you get into the gym and it’s that hot air instead of cold air going through your lungs,” said Gray. “ It’s a big difference and it takes an adjustment.”
Jack Cyr, the Golden Bucks’ leading rusher, agrees: “That gym air was killing my chest.”
Tripp gave the football players time to gain their basketball legs but did go to work on their psyche. The Bucks lost that state title game to Oak Hill.
“I said they had a great football year, it may not have ended the way you wanted but working to get into basketball shape will help you turn the page.”
It worked for Cyr.
“I was upset about the state game but I got rid of that feeling, came to basketball and I love it.”
Now the question is whether the Golden Bucks can get to the postseason.
“I tell our guys all the time that so many kids playing basketball never get a chance to play in the tournament. For the community, for the program, there’s just something special about finishing the season at the (Bangor) Auditorium or now at the Cross Center,” said Tripp.
JAKE RIOUX broke a Van Buren record this week with 57 points in a win over Madawaska. Rioux’s uncle is Matt Rossignol, a 2,000-point scorer for the Crusaders in the 1980s. Rioux’s cousin, Parise Rossignol, just passed her dad’s career scoring record.
LAST YEAR Jonesport-Beals was 18-0 and the top seed in Eastern Class D. This year, Coach Gordon Faulkingham’s young boys’ team (5-11) is less than a Heal point out of the last playoff spot with two games left.
FALMOUTH STOPPED Bangor’s eight-game boys’ hockey winning streak Friday night. Because of a postponement, the teams meet again Monday.