January 13, 2013

Eastern Maine High School Notebook: Hampden uses early adversity to show its grit

By DALE DUFF Special to the Telegram

HAMPDEN - Hampden Academy basketball players Matt Palmer and Zach Gilpin admitted it was quiet in the locker room at halftime Friday night.

For the first time this season they were behind, trailing Brunswick 24-23. The Broncos had a poor shooting half. Their defense was just so-so. Their confidence was perhaps a little shaken.

Even the fans packed into the new gymnasium were mystified.

Hampden is the land of high expectations these days.

"I was interested to see how we would respond to being behind for the first time," said Coach Russ Bartlett.

He got his answer early in the third quarter. Palmer quickly nailed two 3-pointers, and the one-point halftime suddenly was a five-point lead. When the quarter ended, the Broncos had outscored Brunswick 19-7. When the game was over, unbeaten Hampden had its 10th victory, 55-43.

"It was the first time being down at halftime for us. It was kind of quiet in the locker room, and then we started talking about what we needed to do and we did it," said Palmer.

"I think it was good for us to be down at the half," said Gilpin. "Obviously we responded pretty well."

That attitude comes from a team that expects to win. Through nine games, the Broncos were winning by an average of 28 points. Brunswick Coach Todd Hanson said he can understand why.

"They were cold in the first half, then they made some tough shots in the second," Hanson said. "We dug ourselves too big a hole in the third quarter. The thing about Hampden is not only do they have good athletes, they're basketball players. They are tough."

The Broncos are different from last year's team that lost to Deering in the state championship game, 59-50.

Gone is the Mr. Basketball winner, Christian McCue, and a powerful 6-foot-7 center, Fred Knight.

This time around with Palmer, Gilpin and Tyler Norris are players such as Cam Scott, a defensive standout, and a freshman point guard, Nick Gilpin, Zach's brother.

One thing that hasn't changed is the Broncos know they have a bull's-eye on their back.

"We know we're still going to get everybody's best game. It will make us better," said Zach Gilpin. He called Friday night's first half "a lesson learned."

Bartlett, who has coached Hampden to one state title and two other state-final appearances since 2005, called the Brunswick game the right game at just the right time for his team.

"Much needed. A much-needed game," he said. 

THE CORINTH community showed its support Saturday for basketball player Max McHugh and her family by wearing white shirts during the Central High game against Orono.

Earlier in the week, McHugh was involved in a car accident. She suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg.

McHugh has had a brilliant high school career, including leading her team to the Class C state championship in basketball last year.

This fall she scored her 100th goal in soccer. She is also class president and class valedictorian.

Orono beat Central on Saturday, 41-26. 

IT WAS quite a week for Fort Fairfield basketball coach Larry Gardner.

When his Tigers beat Katahdin on Tuesday night, Gardner had his 200th career win as a girls' coach. The win over Limestone three days earlier was his 300th overall win.

After coaching the Fort Fairfield boys' team for nine years, Gardner took a few years off from coaching, then returned and has coached the girls' team for 15 years.

 

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