The Fort Kent Community High School boys basketball program has a competitive tradition, but the Warriors are still searching for their first regional championship.
Could this be the year?
So much remains to be determined with nearly half of the regular season left for many schools and the additional uncertainty of how COVID-19 might affect the schedule and even postseason play.
But coach Chad Cyr’s club has established itself not only as a top contender in Class C North, but at 11-0 is one of just three remaining undefeated boys teams in northern Maine along with Class B Ellsworth and Class D Machias.
“The group of kids we have right now I’ve coached since they were young kids,” said Cyr, Fort Kent’s third-year head coach. “Most of them are multi-sport athletes, and knowing that they’re competitive and they really have the ability to win and they want to win, I knew we’d be real competitive. To say we’d be 11-0, I didn’t know if we were going to get to that point, but they’ve really shown resilience throughout the season.”
Fort Kent has been a frequent contender in Class C in recent years, including 2020 when the Warriors reached the regional semifinals only to fall to Dexter 55-52 on a game-winning shot by guard Parker Ponte with 2.7 seconds left,
COVID-19 took away the chance for statewide tournament glory last winter, but now Fort Kent sits atop the C North standings — just ahead of Dexter — with a big game coming up at 2 p.m. Saturday at Dyer Brook against Southern Aroostook, at 9-1 the No. 2 team in Class D North.
“That’s going to be one heck of a battle, for sure,” Cyr said.
The Fort Kent athletic program is not without recent championship tradition, particularly in boys soccer where the Warriors are the reigning Class C North champions and have won three regional titles in the last four years that a statewide tourney was held in that sport.
Several players from the 2021 soccer team play key roles for the basketball team, led by 6-foot-1-inch senior Austin Delisle.
Delisle, one of four returning starters from last year’s basketball team that played a regionalized schedule amid the pandemic, is one of the top players in northern Maine, averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals per game through the team’s first 10 contests.
“Austin is sneaky,” Cyr said. “He’s a great basketball player, our leading scorer and rebounder, and he’s one of our best passers in transition, he sees the floor really well. He’s one of our best penetrating guards and is probably our best post player, he can play every position.”
Fellow returning starters Evan Deschaine, Keegan Cyr and Collin Bennett and sophomore Ethan Daigle are other key players for what coach Cyr describes as a determined club.
“Even when we’re playing our worst they just dig their heels in and get the job done,” he said.
Fort Kent is averaging 20.1 points per game more than its opposition, with an average of 62.5 points on offense compared to 42.4 points per game allowed defensively.
That defensive average has improved considerably since the team’s 67-64 homecourt victory over Southern Aroostook on Dec. 18, as the Warriors have yielded just 36.8 points per contest over its last eight games.
“I have a goal of giving up no more than 12 points per quarter,” Cyr said. “If we’re doing that then the kids know we’re doing OK, and over the last few games it’s been around eight points per quarter that we’ve given up.”
Fort Kent has not gone untested with four victories coming by single digits, two against Hodgdon and once each against Class B Caribou and Southern Aroostook.
Cyr said in order to win the pointworthy rematch at Dyer Brook, Fort Kent must contain Southern Aroostook senior forward Hunter Burpee, who scored his 1,000th career point earlier this month, and hold its own in the rebounding action.
“Both teams were missing some players due to COVID issues the last time we played them,” he said, “but I think we’re pretty close to fully stocked right now for this weekend’s game so it should be a really good battle.”