One of the top big men in Eastern Maine boys basketball circles this winter plans to continue his career on the Maine small-college scene beginning this fall.

Joe McCloskey, the 6-foot-7 senior center who led Penobscot Valley of Howland to its first tournament victory at the Bangor Auditorium since 1980 in February, will attend the University of Maine at Farmington.

“I’ve always wanted to be a gym teacher,” said McCloskey, whose Howlers won a school-record 15 regular-season games this winter and defeated Washington Academy of East Machias 58-42 in the Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinals before being ousted by Sumner of East Sullivan in the semifinals.

“UMF has a really good health education program that will get me to the same place.”

McCloskey averaged 23.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots this winter, and also shot 60 percent from the field despite being routinely double- and triple-teamed by opposing defenses.

He finished his three-year varsity career at Penobscot Valley with 1,170 points while leading coach Jamie Russell’s club to back-to-back trips to the regional quarterfinals — marking the first times the Howlers have advanced that far since 1987.

“It was coach Russell who got us going,” said McCloskey. “He was the X-factor for us, he really changed the environment here.”

McCloskey also considered Keene State, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Franklin Pierce University before deciding to join veteran coach Dick Meader’s program at UMF.

The Beavers finished 10-15 overall and 6-8 in the North Atlantic Conference last winter, but advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament in 2010, winning their first-round game before being eliminated by Williams College.

“Coach Meader had always shown a lot of interest, and I really liked him,” said McCloskey. “I visited the campus and met the guys and liked it a lot, it’s got a small-town atmosphere.”

McCloskey plans to play in a Bangor-area summer league this year to prepare for joining the college basketball ranks.

“Offensively I feel like I’m ready,” said McCloskey, who envisions himself playing forward in college. “But I want to work on my perimeter defense and my foot speed.”

Aylward, Hathaway Lobster Bowl coaches

Two coaches who squared off in last November’s Class B football state championship game will serve as head coaches for the 22nd annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, scheduled for July 23 at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.

Jim Aylward, head coach at Mountain Valley of Rumford, will lead the West squad while Mike Hathaway of Leavitt of Turner Center will head up the East coaching staff.

Aylward’s Mountain Valley team defeated Hathaway’s Leavitt club 20-0 in last fall’s state final, marking the Falcons’ second state title in three years. Leavitt has won the last two Eastern B championships and defeated Cape Elizabeth in the 2009 state game.

Named as East assistant coaches for this year’s Lobster Bowl are Dan O’Connell of John Bapst of Bangor, Chris Preble of Stearns of Millinocket, Chris Bartlett of Belfast, Dave Hainer of Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Mike Marston of Skowhegan, Brad Bishop of Livermore Falls, Dave Sterling of Edward Little of Auburn and Bill County of Lewiston.

West assistant coaches are Tim Roche of Wells, Ron Ross of Traip Academy of Kittery, Dave Turner of Fryeburg Academy, Dave Higgins of Greely of Cumberland Center and Rob Grover of Freeport.

The West leads the series 15-6, but the East has won four of the last five meetings, including a 40-35 win last July.

Game time is 4 p.m., and the contest will be preceded by several other events, including a Punt, Pass and Kick contest and Lobster Bowl Legends flag football games featuring former Lobster Bowl participants.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...