With virtually everyone returning from a 13-7 team that reached the Class AA semifinals for the second straight season, there was plenty of optimism surrounding the Bangor High School girls basketball team this winter.
But the COVID-19 pandemic ended any aspirations the Rams had of at least reaching the regional championship game for the first time since the Maine Principals’ Association added a fifth class for the 2015-16 campaign.
Lawrence of Fairfield beat Bangor in the 2015 Class A North final.
Bangor has reached the semifinals three times in AA and been ousted in the quarterfinals the other two seasons.
With no regional tournaments or state championship games this season, the Bangor seniors are focused on enjoying a memorable season.
Instead of traveling across the state to face teams like Lewiston, Edward Little of Auburn, Oxford Hills of South Paris and Portland, they will be taking on regional opponents such as Class A Nokomis of Newport and Class B teams Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, Hermon and John Bapst of Bangor.
The Rams are 3-0 with victories over Nokomis and archrival Brewer, a Class A school, and with MDI.
“I just want to finish off my senior season with my teammates and have as much fun as possible,” Bangor senior forward Libby Fleming said. “The biggest adjustment has been not traveling and not being able to play teams we have liked playing.”
For the first time in several years, Fleming isn’t playing with twin sister Abby, who elected not to play this season given the pandemic and a desire to work.
“I’m adjusting to it,” she said.
The Rams also are without sophomore power forward Abbie Quinn, who suffered a broken wrist several weeks ago but is expected to play later this season.
Guard Riley Andrews, who missed all of last season after knee surgery has been lost for the season with a foot injury, second-year head coach Jay Kemble said.
Libby Fleming and senior forward Maggie Cowperthwaite are working toward an undefeated season but have deeper goals.
“It has definitely been an adjustment but, as seniors, we’re just trying to build team chemistry so when we leave, they have a strong bond,” Cowperthwaite said.
The Rams have a new look with three small, quick and talented guards providing a potent perimeter game and the ability to force turnovers leading to transition layups.
Sophomore Emmie Streams, who worked over the summer to improve her shot, scored a career-high 23 points with four 3-pointers, in Monday’s 60-42 win victory Brewer.
Junior Laela Martinez, a transfer from Maryland, is a valuable back-court complement to Streams and freshman Lily Chandler is cut from the same mold with the ability to shoot outside, drive the lane and also make precise passes to teammates for easy baskets.
“We were a zone team last year but now we’re more of a man-to-man team to take advantage of our quickness, especially at the guard position,” Kemble said.
“Not only do they open up the post for us, they also open up the middle,” he said.
That means inside players like Fleming, Cowperthwaite, Quinn, sophomore Taylor Coombs and freshman Amelia Quinn, Abbie’s sister, can be more impactful.
Twins Rae Barron and Lane Barron are junior guards, Cassidy Ireland is a sophomore guard and Lilly Rice is a sophomore forward.
Kemble said the seniors have been great leaders who have helped create a close-knit and supportive atmosphere.
The Rams were forced to take 10 days off due to COVID-19 issues. When they returned to practice a week ago, their excitement level was off the charts.
“We had a two-hour practice but it only seemed like an hour,” Kemble said.
He said all involved are thankful to be playing and that his goal is to give the seniors a rewarding season while providing valuable experience for those who will be back next season.
Bangor is scheduled to play its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday against Hermon.