WESTBROOK — It’s a constant dilemma for Westbrook High junior Alisha Aube: to shoot or not to shoot?

A sturdy 6-foot guard with good ball-handling skills and extended 3-point range, Aube has been scoring at a pace that has put her among the SMAA leaders since her freshman season.

She’s also grown accustomed to the high expectations that come with being her team’s primary scoring threat.

“The good about it was that I was helping my team,” Aube said. “The bad about it was the pressure that you always had to produce. As a freshman, that’s a lot to take on, and I think now I’m coming to grips more that I need to do it but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.”

Now she is modifying her approach by driving to the rim more often in an effort to engage her teammates in the offense. As a result, the Blue Blazes are enjoying their best season in Aube’s three years – and she seems to be enjoying the game more, as well.

Wins have not piled up as quickly as Aube’s points (881 for her career), in part because the Blue Blazes have too often relied too heavily on her to score – a fact well known by opposing coaches and defenders.

Aube averaged 14.5 points per game as a freshman. Westbrook went 4-14, and Aube was quickly introduced to defenses geared toward shutting her down.

“It was definitely harder when I was younger to be face guarded every game,” Aube said. “I was like, ‘I just want to play. Let me play.’ Now it’s kind of like a compliment. But it’s definitely still hard to deal with.”

As a sophomore, Aube boosted her scoring average to an SMAA-leading 17.6 points, and the Blue Blazes improved slightly, going 7-12 with a preliminary round loss at South Portland.

This season, Aube is averaging 18.0 points and Westbrook is 8-8 with two games remaining, heading toward a postseason berth in Class A South.

“She’s improved her leadership ability,” said Westbrook Coach Chris Aube, Alisha’s uncle. “She’s also getting to the basket more. The last few years, she too often would settle for 3s, (but) this year she’s made a concerted effort to get to the basket and get to the line.”

NOT SHY ABOUT SHOOTING

Aube is a high-volume shooter. Through the first 13 games, she averaged nearly 20 shots per game. A third of her points come at the free-throw line, where she shoots 72 percent.

“It’s more that she felt she needed to score those points for us to win, and we’re trying to get across more that if you get 17 or 18 points, that (can lead) to easier baskets for your teammates,” Chris Aube said.

MORE BALANCE

That scenario played out in recent wins against Kennebunk, Falmouth and Sanford. Aube scored a bit less, while teammates chipped in with more offense.

Freshmen Nyagoa Bayak, a 6-foot-1 shot blocker, guards Avery Tucker and Julia Martel and forward Mikayla VanZandt have grown more comfortable. Two seniors, Sarah Wagner and first-year starter Jennilee Witham, have played more assertively.

“We do rely on Alisha a lot for all of our points,” Wagner said. “But the rest of the team, especially as a defense, we have to step up. Personally, I know that I don’t score a lot of points, but I will do what I can for her to score as many as she can because she’s the best shooter on the team and she’ll take the most risks with the ball.”

The Blue Blazes, ranked No. 8 in Class A south, will be looking to get back on track Tuesday at Biddeford after consecutive losses to Marshwood and Greely completed a grueling stretch of five games in eight days.

Aube had her best game of the season in an earlier meeting with Biddeford, scoring 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting as the Tigers tried a triangle-and-two defense, with two players assigned to Aube.

GOOD BLOODLINES

Basketball is a family game for the Aubes. Alisha’s father, Joe, played for Westbrook then played at Salem State, where his coach was Tom Thibodeau, the future Boston Celtics assistant and Chicago Bulls head coach. Heidi (Hamilton) Aube, Alisha’s mother, played at Thomas College after attending Scarborough High.

“I definitely want to play basketball (in college). There’s no doubt about that,” Aube said. “I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve had some colleges contact me, and I’m starting a new AAU team that I definitely think could get me some more exposure.”

Last fall, Aube joined the New England Crusaders, a Nike-sponsored club based in New Hampshire. According to Chris Aube, Ivy League programs Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton are recruiting his niece, as are Fordham, Vermont and Maine.

“I would like to play Division I. That’s kind of my goal, but I also wouldn’t mind playing Division II, either,” Aube said. “It’s really whatever school and coaching staff and team I meld well with. I really just want to go somewhere where I fit in well and it’s like my second family.”

LEARNING TO HAVE FUN

Basketball and family combined in a new way recently when Aube helped coach a team that included her brother Ethan, a fifth-grader.

“He’s just getting into the sport,” Alisha said. “He actually has autism, so he plays a lot of unified (basketball), and I helped coach that this fall. It was through Special Olympics. I think helping out with that made me realize how basketball is really more about having fun and kind of an outlet of any kind of pressure. That can kind of get lost when you’re playing for wins and a championship. It was fun to do that.”

Aube said she’s trying to carry a little of that carefree attitude into her own game.

“I’ve seen her play more with a smile on her face this year than I have the last two,” Chris Aube said.

“The losses are still the same, still hard, you never really get used to losing,” Alisha said. “But I think our wins as a team are more collectively fun because we’re kind of helping each other and just playing better together. I think we’re a better team.”

 

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig


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