Kennebunk junior Zack Sullivan goes up for a layup during practice on Wednesday night. Sullivan is part of a talented group of returning players for the Rams, who are hoping to make some noise this season. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

Kennebunk junior Zack Sullivan goes up for a layup during practice on Wednesday night. Sullivan is part of a talented group of returning players for the Rams, who are hoping to make some noise this season. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

KENNEBUNK — The Kennebunk boys basketball program broke a long nine-year playoff drought two years ago and then made a trip to the Class A South quarterfinal round last season.

Head coach Barrett Belanger, who is in his fourth year with the Rams, expects his team to take the next step this season.

“We have expectations that we should be right up there with (the top teams). It’s no longer just hoping to make the playoffs, it’s hoping to make a run in the playoffs,” said Belanger.

The Rams bring back a ton of talent with junior point guard Cam Lovejoy and junior guards Tripp Bush and Zack Sullivan leading the way.

“We have six guys who were all core players from last year’s team coming back, so again primarily juniors and sophomores, but they’ve all played at the Expo, they’ve all played in tight games and they’ve all played in big games,” said Belanger of his returning players, which also includes senior Cole Hoffman and sophomores Kyle Pasieniuk and Max Murray. “I think a year’s growth with getting bigger and understanding the game more, I consider us a veteran team.”

“I think we’re a lot better this year,” added Bush. “We have a lot more returning players, including Cam and Zack and Cole, but this year we are going to hopefully go farther than last year.”

Bush believes the bond the Rams’ core group has — both on and off the court — will help them be successful.

“It’s huge. We’ve been playing basketball together our whole lives, so really when we get on the court together it’s kind of just like pickup basketball, we are just having fun,” Bush said.

Belanger will be counting on Lovejoy, who has started since his freshman year, to be a leader for the Rams — but that doesn’t mean he will have to carry the team on his back.

“He is still a really smart point guard. What’s good for him is last year he kind of took on the role that everyone knew it was him because we were so young,” said Belanger of Lovejoy. “He saw a lot of tough defense and it allowed Zack Sullivan to come into his own, it allowed Kyle Pasieniuk to start to come into his own. This year Cam isn’t going to be the guy that teams can focus on. We have a group of kids so it could be anyone on any given night, but it’s his job to kind of lead that show.”

Sullivan believes the experience he and his teammates got last year will be crucial to their success this season.

“I mean we have pretty high expectations this year. We’ve got a pretty experienced group,” said Sullivan. “(We have) more confidence as a team. We didn’t have much confidence that we could go far last year, and I think this year is a whole other attitude.”

Belanger was happy to see his team peak at the end of last season — and he expects that to carry over to this year.

“We really found ourselves late in the year. We made a good run and we won tight games so we ended on a positive. They grew up a lot last year,” said Belanger.

The fourth-year coach believes his team has what it takes to make a deep playoff run as long as they focus on the name on the front of their jersey and not their individual stats.

“We obviously set expectations high, but I told them to go from being a good team to a great team it’s got to become a cohesive unit,” said Belanger. “Our goal this year is to keep getting tighter and understanding that every night is team first, and that because we have so many skilled players it could be any player on any given night.”

Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.


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