DEXTER, Maine — Alex Brown is familiar with the great names of Mattanawcook Academy basketball past and has committed himself to creating a new legacy at the Lincoln school based on present-day hardwood standouts.
That effort won’t be at full capacity until tournament time next month, but what began with a humbling start four years ago is now taking shape, according to the senior point guard’s best-case scenario with the Lynx the lone undefeated team left in Class C North after Thursday night’s 41-34 victory at previously unbeaten Dexter.
“I’m just really proud of these guys because growing up we always heard about the old MA, Curtis Robertson and Bryan Tilton and all the others,” Brown said. “It’s always been my dream to just get this back to where people can have pride in coming to our games, and I think we’re on the right track.”
MA’s return to basketball prominence, which began last winter with a 12-6 regular season and a trip to the Class C North semifinals, followed a considerable down time for the program.
The Lynx went a combined 11-79 from 2013 through 2017, including 3-33 during the first two high school seasons for current seniors Brown, Max Woodman, Kris Milner, Nate Ring and Cayden Spencer-Thompson.
“It was definitely embarrassing those first two years even though we were in Class B, but court time is court time and we knew we had a good opportunity moving to Class C,” Brown said. “We definitely had the talent last year, and it’s the same thing this year.”
The return to Class C after two years in Class B coincided with the continued development and increased maturity of the Lynx, which first showed itself during the 2017-18 season opener against neighboring rival Penobscot Valley of Howland.
“We were coming off a 1-17 season, they had beat us during the summer when we scrimmaged and we knew they had a lot of confidence,” Brown said, “but we also had a lot of confidence in ourselves, and after that game we knew we belonged and what we had to do to replicate that every game.”
MA went on to have its best season since 2012 last winter and reached the regional semifinals before being ousted by Fort Fairfield, a loss that motivated the five most veteran Lynx for their final chance at postseason glory together this winter.
“It’s just been a lot of gym time,” Ring said. “All of the guys have bought in, going to the gym together and always being committed to this. We started out 3-3,3 but we’ve turned it all around. We’ve worked hard for this.”
Defense has fueled the team’s success under third-year head coach Lucas Turner, with the Lynx allowing just 39 points per game through six games. That’s been complemented by an often balanced offense quarterbacked by Brown, a fourth-year varsity player.
“Most of their kids who played [Thursday] are seniors, and it probably matters a little bit,” Dexter coach Peter Murray said. “Brown clearly stirs the drink, no doubt about that, but they have other players and they all seem to know their roles. Everybody contributes in some way, so when you add it all together at the end of the night, it looks pretty good.”
Those roles were evident against Murray’s Tigers.
Brown created opportunities for himself and his teammates, with Woodman another key offensive contributor. Spencer-Thompson, the Louisville-bound long jumper and triple jumper, came up big late in the game with a go-ahead slam dunk followed immediately by another basket after he grabbed an offensive rebound.
Ring played a key defensive role in the contest and along with Milner helped the Lynx outrebound Dexter 37-24.
“In the first six games coaches have looked at MA and who they’ve got to stop, and it’s Alex Brown,” Turner said. “But being a senior-laden team, whether it’s Nate or Max or Cayden or Alex or Kris, we go wherever the matchup we want is,” Turner said.
How long the Lynx will remain unbeaten is uncertain in a deep Class C North field.
The team plays next on Tuesday at three-time defending Class C state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, and MA has two games left with the Eagles and top-ranked Houlton as well as return matchups against Dexter and Penobscot Valley.
Those four foes entered Friday’s play with a combined 25-5 record.
“The great thing about us is that we’re not satisfied just starting out 6-0 because we know what it feels like to be on the other end,” Brown said. “We have five starting seniors who have been playing together our whole lives, and we want to make this into something we can look back on in 20 years and be proud.”