Freeport boys basketball players stretch out at halftime during a Feb. 23 game against Yarmouth in Freeport. Portland Press Herald/Brianna Soukup

The 2020-21 high school basketball season will go down as unusual and memorable for players and coaches alike.

Losing streaks were shattered, dunks were thrown down, and buzzer-beaters were aplenty. While the games had an eerie feel with almost empty gyms and players spaced out, the season had plenty of twists and turns.

“The commitment level from our guys was terrific all season,” said Brunswick boys basketball head coach Todd Hanson. “They knew there would be no tournament at the end of the season, but they didn’t show that fact when it came to their effort level.”

The Dragons got a late start to the season, opening Feb. 9.

“We talked a lot about perseverance, and what it means to have an attitude in which you never give up” added Hanson. “From starting 1-4 to finish 6-4, we showed our perseverance.”

While coaches understood the COVID-19 safety protocols that were put into place, Morse girls basketball coach Jeannine Paradis said she wished she had more time with her team this season.

And with good reason: The Shipbuilders snapped a 46-game losing streak — which stretched over three seasons — with a victory over Lincoln Academy on Feb. 15.

“The beginning of skills and drills was just a long process,” said Paradis, who wrapped up her second season at Morse. “I just wish we had more time together to work on in-game situations. … All of the hard work that we had put in during practice paid off, and we played a complete game of basketball,” added Paradis. “While we’re just getting started, that was a great moment and the highlight of our season.”

The Shipbuilders finished 1-10.

Both the players and coaches around the Midcoast adapted quickly to the new environment. 

“It took us a little while to adapt to all of the protocols and guidelines, rules, and regulations,” said Morse boys head coach Chris York, who took over this season for the retired Tom Maines. “I definitely thought the kids in the program did a great job of staying engaged, staying positive and keeping great energy.”

The Shipbuilders used the unique season to build a new culture under York, while sending out their three seniors on a high note.

“No matter what the circumstances were, they brought in each and every night and bought into what I was laying out for them,” York said.

The Shipbuilders went 5-6, including losses in thrillers to Brunswick and Mt. Ararat. 

Mt. Ararat boys coach Dave Dubreuil said this season was a “rebuilding” year in Topsham. With just one senior on the roster in Jace Hollenbach, Dubreuil — whose team went 4-8 — was afforded the time to try new lineups and tinker with schemes. 

“The comeback against Morse was the peak of our season,” he said. “The other coaches and I really used this time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of our younger guys, and were able to get them a lot of varsity experience this year. We didn’t want to take anything away from Jace, we definitely cared about this year and wanted to win each time we took the floor.”

The Freeport girls basketball team also dealt with a lot of turnover from last season, and had three new starters inserted into the lineup.

“I’m so proud of how the team handled this season, they overcame a lot of new challenges that were thrown their way,” said coach Seth Farrington. “The girls responded and most of them took the challenges head on.”

Like the Dragons, the Falcons got going in February, going 4-6.

The Brunswick girls basketball team poses after they defeated Mt. Ararat this past season in Topsham. The win was 200th of head coach Sam Farrell’s career, and his 144th at Brunswick. Photo provided by Sam Farrell

The Brunswick girls team also got into a groove as the season went along. 

“We tried to not do anything different while adhering to the guidelines of course,” said Dragons head coach Sam Farrell, who earned his 200th career victory this season. “Finishing our season with Mt. Ararat and Morse gave the kids a little sense of normalcy to close out the year.”

The Dragons went 6-4. 

While every team in the state had to deal with some adversity, especially the Mt. Ararat girls basketball team. Twice it had to quarantine and also had a week-long pause when the high school temporarily shifted to remote learning.  

“When we first went into quarantine we had a feeling of ‘oh boy here we go’, but we worked hard and were ready for game action when we returned,” said MTA coach Julie Petrie, whose team went 7-5. “When we came back after our second quarantine, we played six games in 10 days.”

In Richmond, both the boys and the girls teams found themselves in a rebuilding phase this season.

“This year was a good way to see what the future holds for us,” said Bobcats head coach Mike Ladner. 

Brook Kulis of Morse, left, looks to make a move around Morgan Ruff of Mt. Ararat during a March 8 game. Eli Canfield / The Times Record

The girls squad finished 2-10, and were led by lone senior Macy Carver, who averaged eight points and as many rebounds a game. 

The boys found themselves in a similar predicament. With just 14 boys in the whole program, first year head coach Jason Cassidy found himself in a tough spot. 

“We wanted to get our younger guys on the same page and have them learn from our experienced seniors,” he said. 

BIG MOMENTS

While the season was different, the play on the court was not. The game of the season on the Midcoast came during the final week of the season, when the Brunswick and Morse boys got together for two games. 

“The game against Morse, that’s one I will remember for a long time,” said Hanson, whose team pulled out a 74-64 victory in double overtime.

It was the first game inside the new gym at Morse High School. 

“That game was an instant classic, and we learned a lot about ourselves after that one,” York said. 

Just two days later, the Dragons stole another game from the Shipbuilders, this time on an Ethan Upham 3-pointer at the buzzer, his second buzzer-beater of the season.

“It’s rare to have one shot like that during the season, let alone two by the same player,” Hanson said. “To finish the season on a five-game winning streak with that type of finish was a great way for the season to end.”

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