Heather Richards has had some good teams at Old Town High School, where she is in her ninth year as the head coach of the girls basketball team.
But this is the first time her team has won its first six games.
Four of those wins have come over teams that have a combined record of 22-8 in defending Class B North champ Hermon, which is 6-1, Ellsworth (6-3), Presque Isle and Washington Academy of East Machias (both 5-2).
“I didn’t expect to be undefeated,” Richards admitted. “You go into the season hoping you can beat anybody but on any given night it depends on who shows up to play.”
Richards credited her team’s willingness to share the ball and improved defense as keys to their success thus far.
“They have played with a lot of grit on defense,” Richards said. “They’ve realized that by playing cohesively on defense, it leads to easier offensive opportunities. They have been able to transition from defense to offense.”
Richards said last season, when they played just local teams during a pod format caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they learned the value of team defense from playing Class AA Bangor twice, defending three-time Class A titleist Hampden Academy and Hermon.
All are very good defensive teams.
Hampden Academy has moved up to AA this season.
“That made them want to get better on defense,” said Richards, whose team won the Penobscot Valley Conference Class B pod and then lost to Bangor, the Big East AA-A pod victor, in the crossover title game 45-34.
Old Town, which plays a smothering man-to-man defense, has held teams to an average of 35.5 points per game while scoring 55.3 a game.
Old Town had momentum entering the season since several of its players were on the field hockey team that captured the Class B North title before losing to Leavitt of Turner 1-0 in the state title game.
There is a camaraderie among them that has been beneficial, according to Richards.
“They all get along well and they want each other to succeed. They are very athletic and they love basketball,” she said.
They have a balanced attack with any number of players being able to lead the team in scoring on a given night.
Sisters Maddie and Makayla Emerson, Saige Evans, Maddie Arsenault, Lexi Thibodeau and Sydney Loring are all capable scorers.
Maddie Emerson and Arsenault are the point guards.
Evans and Thibodeau are the leading rebounders with Loring also being a factor in the paint.
Gabrielle Cody and Kilee Bradeen have been valuable coming off the bench.
Richards said there are a lot of quality teams in Class B North so the tournament should be interesting.
Old Town will play again on Tuesday when Hermon looks to avenge its only loss, 52-41, at Hermon.