Official Eric McLain stretches in front of a crowd of cardboard cutouts before the start of a game at Scarborough High in February. Because of the pandemic, fans were not allowed at games this winter. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

It was, and still is for those teams playing these next two days, a basketball season like no other.

Masks on, empty stands, coin flips instead of tipoffs, no post-game handshakes.

All that, plus a shortened schedule, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. And somehow, the games were played,  milestones were achieved and the kids had fun.

“It was definitely a little different with the masks and no fans,” said Kennebunk senior star Emily Archibald. “But we’ve been making the most of it and having a lot of fun out there, which is kind of the main point of the season.”

Deering boys’ coach Todd Wing certainly tried to let his players have fun. When practice ended and they did dunk contests or joked around, he reminded himself that this was really the only time of day they could be with each other.

“It was fun to watch them be teenagers in such a hard time,” he said.

Eric Marston, the girls’ basketball coach at Thornton Academy, and Kevin Millington, the boys’ coach at South Portland, likened it somewhat to summer basketball in that they weren’t as strict about players attending practices.

“I tried to be flexible,” said Millington, whose team is 6-2 with games against non-traditional opponents Gray-New Gloucester and Cape Elizabeth Friday and Saturday. “We had some kids who made all the games but not all the practices, which was certainly different for me.”

Marston’s girls were one of the surprise teams of the season, going 6-0. They had four games canceled because of COVID-19 outbreaks at other schools. The Trojans had no seniors, and two of their best players were freshmen: Addisen Sulikowski and Kate LeBlanc. With junior point guard Mikenzie Melendez running the show and sophomore Jess Dow adding scoring depth, the Trojans are nicely set up for the future.

“We’ll take what we learned this season and build on it in the summertime,” said Marston.

Yarmouth’s Katelyn D’Appolonia drives for a layup between Freeport’s Meg Driscoll, left, and Hannah Groves. Yarmouth has been one of the surprise teams in girls’ basketball this season, winning its first nine games. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

There were many things that stood out this winter. Among them:

• The Yarmouth girls are 9-1 after Thursday’s loss to Class A power Greely. Yes this was a team that reached the Class B South finals a year ago, and a had a good core returning. But they defeated Class A Brunswick twice and Class AA South Portland.

“You’ve got to give our kids a lot of credit. They knew there would be no tournament going into it,” said Coach David Cousins. “But that gave them the incentive to say, ‘Let’s prove, tournament or no tournament, we can compete.’ It would have been easy to pack it in.”

Seniors Margaret McNeil and Calin McGonagle and junior Katelyn D’Appolonia have been the leaders, but Cousins said this team displays a balance that is hard to defend. “Everyone is contributing in almost every facet of the game,” he said.

• Milestones were reached.

In this truncated season, eight girls and five boys statewide have gone over the 1,000-point mark while Parker Desjardins of Forest Hills incredibly went over 2,000 points.

In addition, senior Kennebunk’s Archibald, a finalist for Miss Maine Basketball, achieved a rare, rare feat of going over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

“Those were definitely moments to remember,” she said. “It was a great feeling and my teammates and coaches made it so special for me.”

Thornton Academy senior Payton Jones, a finalist for Mr. Maine Basketball, went over the milestone this week, becoming just the second Trojan boys’ player to go over 1,000 points, joining the great Bob Warner.

“We were just taking things game by game,” said Jones. “But having a shortened season, yes it was nice to have a milestone like that, especially not knowing before if we were even going to play.”

The list grew on Thursday night. Old Orchard Beach senior guard Shani Plante scored 38 points against Waynflete to give her 1,003 for her career.

• The Falmouth and York boys are still pretty good.

The finalists in last year’s Class A South championship game (won by York) suffered big graduation losses. But Falmouth finished up 7-1  and York was 8-1 going into games Thursday and Friday.

“The kids have been great, they’ve gotten on board with what we wanted to do, they’re working hard, and we have great team chemistry,” said York Coach Jerry Hill, who didn’t meet his players until the very first day of tryouts.

He credits senior leadership – Teagan Hynes, Riley Higgins, Evan Bourgoin, Alex Neilson, Josh Gennaro and Alex Hames – for the success. He noted that Higgins visited the University of Maine campus on Wednesday and still returned to practice. “That says a lot about this team,” said Hill.

Falmouth had its star players in juniors Brady Coyne and Jack Stowell, but also relied on strong senior leadership.

“The older kids, the seniors, did a great job mentoring the younger kids,” said Coach Dave Halligan, 69, who plans to return next year. “They showed them, ‘This is why you have to practice, this is why we do things, this is how we do things.’ They were like coaches on the court.”

Halligan said his players are already looking ahead. When they returned to Falmouth Wednesday night after their final game, and after uniforms had been collected, no one wanted to leave.

“They were milling around and didn’t want to go home,” said Halligan. “They were talking about next year. And that’s a good sign.”

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