Saturday March 03, 2012 | 07:42 PM

University of Maine women's basketball coach Richard Barron, whose first season in Orono ended Friday in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament, was on hand at the Cumberland County Civic Center, sitting courtside (along with Black Bears assistant Amy Vachon) for the Class A championship game between McAuley and Cony.

“Obviously I'm evaluating the kids, but it's also important for me to get out and be seen and learn the different high school coaches and show interest in them,'' he said. “It's an important part of my transition to Maine.''

Barron has been to southern Maine before, to watch McAuley (which was coached by Vachon to a state title last year) and Western Class B champion Lake Region.

He spent a lot of time watching tournament games at the Bangor Auditorium and was recently at the Augusta Civic Center.

He found Maine's support of its high school teams very impressive.

“I think it's really neat how the whole state seems to look forward to the state tournament,'' said Barron. “It's great to see the communities come out and support their kids.''

Barron's first season in Orono ended with an 8-23 record.

Vachon, by the way, has ties to both Class A finalists. She played for Cony when her father, Paul, was the coach. And she led McAuley to a championship last year. She was also an assistant to her successor at McAuley, Bill Goodman, when Goodman coached at Greely.

Asked who she was rooting for, she replied, “McAuley. I know those girls pretty well.''

NICE TOUCH by the McAuley girls to have seniors Mary Leasure and Kathryn Liziewski snip the final cords of the net following the Lions' 54-41 win over Cony for the Class A state championship.

Neither played much this season, but the Lions felt it was important to have them cut the net down.

“They may not have played much, but they were leaders on this team,'' said senior Alexa Coulombe, who will play at Boston College next year.

Leasure said it's a very special memory to end her career.

“I feel like I'm a leader on the bench,'' she said, clutching the gold ball while wearing the net as a necklace. “I get everyone fired up for the game and I think that's a big part, too.

“I definitely feel special.''

CONY COACH Karen Magnusson silenced a lot of critics by leading a young team (seven sophomores on the roster) to the state title game.

After her first two seasons – a preliminary-round loss and a non-tournament season – there were rumblings in Augusta.

“There's always questions when someone is not winning,'' said Paul Vachon, the Cony AD and coaching legend who preceded Magnusson. “Were there rumors? Yes.''

But Vachon never listened to them.

“We were confident in her effort, her passion and her ability to coach,'' he said. “She is as passionate as a coach as she was as a player. And we knew we had a good person who would be a great role model for the kids.''
 

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Tom Chard is a Portland native who has covered high school sports and golf for the Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram for 38 years. A three-sport athlete at Deering High, Tom's chief athletic pursuit is chasing the little white ball. He played in his 20th Maine Amateur Golf Championship in July.



Glenn Jordan came to Maine in 1994 to cover the nascent Portland Sea Dogs. After eight baseball seasons and three children – the last two within 18 minutes of each other – he became a part-time writer. Among the sports he covers are now are tennis, skiing, swimming and running. He has a degree in philosophy from Dartmouth, a decent forehand and a penchant for checkers.


Mike Lowe is a Massachusetts native who feels he's lived long enough in Maine (since 1982) to have roots here. He graduated from Boston University and has worked in New Hampshire and Maine, covering everything from the Little League World Series to the Olympics. When he has free time – Ha! – he likes to read, collect comic books and watch the grass grow from his hammock.

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